Hypernatremia in Dogs

by Lydia Janssen
    Dehydration can lead to hypernatremia.

    Dehydration can lead to hypernatremia.

    Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images

    Hypernatremia is an imbalance between the sodium and liquid levels in the blood. The condition can be caused by an illness or an imbalance between the intake of salt and water. In most cases, the prognosis is good provided appropriate treatment is given, although untreated hypernatremia can have severe consequences and even lead to death.

    This condition is caused by an excess of salt in the blood. Sodium is an important part of many bodily functions, including nerve signals, blood pressure and blood volume, making the electrolyte imbalance potentially very dangerous. Your veterinarian may perform a blood count, urinalysis and a biochemistry profile in order to diagnose the condition if your dog is showing symptoms. The most significant danger comes from the rapid movement of fluid between the inside and outside of your dog's cells.

    The symptoms of hypernatremia can range from mild to severe depending on the degree of the imbalance. Your dog may have increased thirst, vomiting, diarrhea, confusion and disorientation in the early stages of this condition. More severe cases may result in hemorrhage in the brain, cerebral edema, coma and even death. If you think your dog may have hypernatremia, offer him free access to water and contact your veterinarian.

    An excess of sodium may come from either a loss of water or an excessive intake of salt. Excessive heat, panting, sweating and fever, when paired with a lack of access to water, may lead to hypernatremia. Excessive salt intake may also cause the problem, although it is more common in cattle than dogs. Illnesses like diabetes, renal failure, sodium retention in the kidneys or excessive vomiting or diarrhea may also cause sufficient fluid loss or sodium gain. Severe burns may also cause fluid loss through the injured area.

    Restoration of the correct fluid levels, either through offering liquids to the dog or through IV fluids should correct the problem. It is important to restore the fluids at the right rate, since too rapid restoration can be equally dangerous and may cause coma. If illness is the underlying cause of the imbalance, it is important to treat the disease as well to prevent a recurrence of the condition.

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    About the Author

    Lydia Janssen began her career writing news articles for the SPCA to connect adoptable pets with their potential owners. She moved into professional writing in 2009 and uses her experience as a dog trainer, SPCA kennel worker and veterinary technician to bring quality information to responsible pet owners.

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