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Excessive Potassium in the Blood in Dogs

Hyperkalemia in Dogs

Hyperkalemia in dogs refers to significantly elevated levels of potassium in the bloodstream, a condition that can adversely affect the heart’s normal function due to increased acidity. Ordinarily, the kidneys regulate potassium levels by eliminating excess amounts, aided by the hormone aldosterone, which prompts the kidney tubules to retain sodium and water. Conditions hindering the renal elimination of potassium can directly contribute to hyperkalemia.

Furthermore, pseudohyperkalemia, prevalent in the Akita breed, involves an apparent rise in potassium levels caused by excessive leakage of potassium from cells during or after blood sampling.


Symptoms of hyperkalemia in dogs may include arrhythmias, weakness, collapse, and flaccid paralysis, characterized by limp muscles rather than rigid paralysis.


Causes of hyperkalemia in dogs include pseudohyperkalemia, a condition where blood samples, if not promptly analyzed or separated, can lead to false high potassium readings due to the release of intracellular potassium from certain blood cells. Another cause is inadequate potassium elimination from the body, which may result from anuric or oliguric conditions (lack of urine excretion or reduced urine production due to renal failure). Physical traumas like urinary tract rupture or urethral obstruction, as well as certain gastrointestinal diseases, can also contribute.

Other contributing factors encompass:

  • Elevated potassium intake, such as through oral or intravenous potassium supplements
  • Fluid therapy involving potassium supplementation
  • Administration of potassium-sparing diuretics
  • Conditions associated with acidosis
  • Presence of fluid in the abdomen
  • Trauma
  • Kidney disease
  • Kidney stones in male dogs
  • Thrombocytosis (increased platelet counts) and leukemia


To diagnose hyperkalemia in your dog, it is crucial to provide a comprehensive history of your pet’s health, detailing the onset of symptoms and any potential incidents that may have contributed to the condition. This history can offer valuable insights for your veterinarian to identify secondary organ involvement. A thorough diagnostic process will involve a complete blood profile, encompassing a chemical blood profile, a complete blood count, and a urinalysis.

Hyperkalemia often presents with an intermittent history of gastrointestinal issues, weakness, and collapse. Your veterinarian will assess for hypoadrenocorticism, an endocrine disorder. If your dog exhibits signs of straining during urination or has reduced urine output, potential considerations include urinary obstruction or oliguric/anuric kidney failure.

Diagnostic imaging techniques may include radiographic contrast studies, utilizing a radiopaque/radiocontrasting agent injection to enhance visibility on X-rays. Ultrasound may be employed to rule out urinary tract rupture or obstruction.

Given that hyperkalemia can impact blood flow, affecting the heart’s optimal functioning, an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) recording will be conducted. This test examines the electrical currents in the heart muscles, revealing any abnormalities in cardiac electrical conduction, which is fundamental to the heart’s contraction and beating capabilities.


Treatment approaches vary based on the root cause of hyperkalemia. Initially, supportive measures target symptom relief and aim to normalize potassium levels while seeking a definitive diagnosis. The preferred fluid for reducing potassium concentrations and mitigating hyperkalemia’s impact on cardiac conduction is 0.9 percent saline.

In cases of dehydration or hypotension (abnormally low blood pressure), fluids can be administered promptly. Your veterinarian will prescribe medications as necessary based on the specific condition of your dog.

Living and Management

Your veterinarian will arrange follow-up appointments to monitor potassium levels, the frequency of which will be determined by the underlying disease. ECG checks will be conducted regularly until any rhythm disturbances are resolved.

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