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Potassium Deficiency in Animals

Updated April 17, 2017

An essential nutrient for muscle development and other body functions, potassium is the third largest mineral element in animals. If a diet is markedly deficient in potassium, an animal infant will suffer stunted growth and may die.

Causes

Causes of potassium deficiency include increased urination, loss of potassium due to diarrhoea or vomiting, insufficient amounts of potassium in the diet, excessive consumption of sodium, kidney disease, burns and stress. If the animal is put on diuretics such as Lasix for extended periods, it can lead to potassium deficiency.

Symptoms

Potassium deficiency is typically manifested by poor growth, muscular weakness, nervous disorders, loss of appetite and intracellular acidosis. Other symptoms include abnormal electrocardiograms and a lowered heart rate. Low blood potassium can lead to a heart attack.

Toxicity

If the animal's kidneys are functioning properly, high levels of potassium intake are not toxic. Dogs that suffer from Addison's Disease or hypoadrenocorticism, in which the adrenal gland fails to generate enough adrenal hormone to regulate the potassium in blood, may be at risk.

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About the Author

Kay Tang is a journalist who has been writing since 1990. She previously covered developments in theater for the "Dramatists Guild Quarterly." Tang graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in economics and political science from Yale University and completed a Master of Professional Studies in interactive telecommunications at New York University.