Too Much Acid in the Body in Cats

By PetMD Editorial on Jun. 8, 2009

Metabolic Acidosis in Cats

Acid and alkali are normal components of the blood supply, both playing very important roles in the body. The lungs and kidneys are chiefly responsible for maintaining the delicate balance between acids and alkalis. A condition of metabolic acidosis occurs when there is an increase in the levels of acid in the blood, which ultimately accumulates to abnormal levels in the body, causing various problems. This can occur due to loss of bicarbonate (alkali); acid production by increased metabolism; excess acid introduction into the body through an external source like ethylene glycol (resulting in ethylene toxicity); or by the kidney’s inability to excrete acid, which it normally does to maintain its level. Metabolic acidosis can occur in cats of any age, size, gender, or breed.

Symptoms and Types

The symptoms may vary considerably, especially if your cat is concurrently compromised by other health problems like diabetes or kidney disease. The most common symptoms that you may notice in a cat that is suffering from metabolic acidosis include:

  • Depression (especially if acidosis is severe)
  • Rapid and deep breathing
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Confusion


  • Toxicity
  • Ethylene glycol (antifreeze ingestion)
  • Salicylate (aspirin)
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Severe shock


You will need to give a thorough history of your cat’s health, including a background history of symptoms, and possible incidents that might have precipitated this condition (such as suspected antifreeze ingestion, or use of aspirin to treat your cat). The history you provide may give your veterinarian clues as to which organs are causing secondary symptoms.

Your veterinarian will then perform a thorough physical examination on your cat. For the diagnosis of metabolic acidosis, a compete blood chemical profile will be performed to check the levels of acid and alkali in the body. The next step is to find the underlying cause of the metabolic acidosis in order to treat that problem along with correcting the acid level. Therefore, other test panels may also be used along with the blood chemical profile.


The treatment of metabolic acidosis is usually twofold. It involves the correction of the disturbed acid-base balance as well as addressing any underlying diseases, such as diabetes and/or kidney failure. Your veterinarian will give suitable fluid therapy in order to correct the acid balance. If the acidosis is mild, your cat will be able to go home after a short treatment. However, in cases of severe or complicated acidosis, your cat may need to be hospitalized for few days until it has stabilized. Diagnosis of the underlying problem/disease causing the acidosis is crucial for preventing future episodes of metabolic acidosis.

Living and Management

After returning from the hospital, keep a close eye on your cat for few days. If your cat starts behaving in a depressed manner, or is breathing rapidly even while at rest, check with your veterinarian. This is especially important for cats dealing with some chronic health problems like diabetes, in which the next episode of metabolic acidosis may occur at any time.

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