Sodium Deficiency in Cats

4 min read

Hyponatremia in Cats

As a component of the extracellular fluid (fluids outside of the cells), sodium is the most abundant positive charged atom in the body. The term hyponatremia refers to a condition in which a cat is suffering from abnormally low concentration of serum sodium in the blood. Hyponatremia usually reflects a concurrent condition of hyposmolality; that is, an underconcentration of osmotic solution in the blood serum -- a lack in the ability of  body fluids to pass through the cellular membranes (osmosis), by which the body's chemical concentrations are kept in balance. Hyposmolality is typically associated with a decreased amount of sodium content throughout the body.

Theoretically, hyponatremia can be caused by either water retention or solute loss (loss of a dissolvable body substance -- in this case, salt/sodium is the solute). Most solute loss occurs in iso-osmotic solutions (e.g., vomit and diarrhea), and as a result, water retention in relation to solute is the underlying cause in almost all patients that are diagnosed with hyponatremia. In general, hyponatremia occurs only when there is a defect in the kidney's ability to excrete water.


  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Confusion
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Dullness
  • Coma
  • Other findings depend on the underlying cause


Normal osmolar hyponatremia, causes with typical concurrent conditions:

Hyperlipemia – excessive fats in the blood

  • Hyperproteinemia
  • Hyperosmolar hyponatremia

Hyperglycemia – excessive glucose/sugar in the blood

  • Mannitol infusion (a diuretic agent)
  • Normovolemic (normal blood volume)

Primary polydipsia – excessive thirst

  • Hypothyroid myxedema (a skin and tissue disorder) coma
  • Hypotonic fluid infusion (fluid with lower osmotic pressure)
  • SIADH (syndrome of inappropriate antidiuretic hormone secretion)
  • Hypervolemic (too much fluid in the blood)

Congestive heart failure (CHF)

  • Hepatic (liver) cirrhosis
  • Nephrotic syndrome (kidney disease where there is abnormal leakage of protein, low levels of proteins in blood and swelling of body parts)
  • Hypovolemic (too little fluid in the blood)

Gastrointestinal losses

  • Renal (kidney) failure
  • Low potassium
  • Cutaneous losses
  • Diuresis (increased production of urine by the kidney)
  • Hypoadrenocorticism (endocrine disorder)


A complete blood profile will be conducted, including a chemical blood profile, a complete blood count, a urinalysis and an electrolyte panel. If your cat has hyponatremia, these tests will confirm low serum sodium concentration. Other disorders that can mimic hyponatremia, and which will need to be excluded, are hyperglycemia, hyperproteinemia, and hyperlipidemia.

Your veterinarian may also recommend testing the serum osmolality will be tested. The osmolality balance of your cat's urine will be indicative of the kidney's ability to excrete water, and the sodium concentration found in the urine may indicate a low volume of circulating sodium.

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