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Cat losing weight

Species: Cat
Breed: himalayan x
Age: 11-15 years
Hello, I took my 15 year old neutered cat to the vet the other day because he was losing weight.He still was eating and drinking and playing cleaning himself and using the litter box fairly normal cat just weight loss. Vet said to take bloodwork and urinalysis..so we did...they upsetmy cat so bad that he was panting for over a hour very stressed out cat (TOLD PANTING IS VERY RARE FOR CATS TO DO)The blood work comes back and vet say there nothing to treat maybe try an x ray see if theres a mass in the stomach but not really sure if they would even find anything. anyways i ask for a copy of the blood work report. On the report it says his potassium is 7.5 and sodium is 160 and calo osmolality is 330 and but told by vet his kiddneys are working fine...I dont understand. High potassium levels are they deadly for cats like it is for humans and if so what can i do? I have the full lab report if you need more information. Thank you Penny (Maxs mommy)

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Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Oh, I'm sorry to hear that you and Maxwell are going through this. Any time I see weight loss in a cat it is always something to be concerned about.

The blood work doesn't really tell us much other than the potassium level. A potassium level of 7.5 can be significant. In fact, the textbooks tell us that any level of greater than 7.5 can be life threatening. This could possibly explain why Maxwell was panting after his tests.

However, what doesn't make sense is that it is really uncommon to have a high potassium level and nothing else going on in the bloodwork. High potassium happens with severe kidney disease, but this would show up on bloodwork. There are some medications that can cause high potassium, so if he is on any medications you may want to ask your vet if this is possibly what is going on.

One condition you may want to ask your vet about is something called hypoaldosteronism. It is quite rare. I actually had to look it up in order to get more info for you. But, it can cause changes in electrolytes like you have mentioned. Another condition is hypoadrenocorticism. Both of these conditions involve a tumor on the adrenal gland. An ultrasound of the abdomen might be able to determine if this is the problem.

I'm assuming that your vet has checked Maxwell's thyroid (T4) level as well. If not, this could be a cause for weight loss.

Another possible reason for weight loss with no changes in bloodwork is inflammatory bowel disease. (You don't always have to have diarrhea to have IBD). If this were my case I may possibly try a course of steroids to see if they help as they would with IBD. However, to get a diagnosis of IBD you'd need biopsies.

I wish I had more concrete answers for you. Cases like this are hard on us vets too as it is not always easy to figure out what is going on. I really hope you can get some answers!

Dr. Marie



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Customer reply:

Thank you, Iam very worried about my cat. Do you think my cat may be in great danger with this potassium? Is there anything that could be done to help bring down the potassium level? Anything by me? The contitions you noted involving a tumor..Can anything be done to treat them? Maxs T4 level was checked as well results 36.9. Under comments on lab reportit says....any effusions? hows is heart rate- potassium can be an artifact...I dont understand what this means. thank you for time, Penny


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Ah, yes, it is possible that the high potassium level is an artifact. What that means is that it could be lab error. Sometimes we can see high potassium levels if the blood was accidently transferred into the wrong type of blood tube. We can also see high potassium levels if there is a collection of fluid (effusion) in the body. Unfortunately effusions are usually caused by cancer.

If this were my case I would likely be rechecking the potassium level to be sure that it is truly that high.

There is nothing you can do at home to lower Maxwell's potassium level. The key is to find out the cause and then see if we can fix it. If this is because of an adrenal tumor it is possible to have surgery done to cure some adrenal tumors. But, this surgery usually requires having a specialist do the surgery and it can be very expensive.

Again, I feel that I'm not able to give you any concrete answers. It sounds like your vet is doing all of the same things that I would do. I would continue to follow their advice. But feel free to come back and ask me for clarification if you need it.

Dr. Marie.


Have you tried the Purr Pillow? This is one of Dr. Marie's top recommended pet products for 2016.

Customer reply:

Thank you again Dr Marie, I was wondering..what are the symptoms of too high potassium level? And on the lab report under potassium it says verified then under that Na/K Ratio 21.3...does this mean the potassium level was rechecked? Thank you again.


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

I'm not sure why it says verified. They may have run the potassium level a second time to be sure it was high.

If this was a dog, I would be worried about a condition called addison's disease, but it's super rare in cats.

Symptoms of high potassium are usually related to the heart and involve weakness and lethargy.


Have you tried the Purr Pillow? This is one of Dr. Marie's top recommended pet products for 2016.

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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

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