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 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.
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.
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.