• Key words;
  • Magnesium;
  • electrolyte;
  • critically ill;
  • canine;
  • hospitalization;
  • mortality


Serum magnesium (Mg) is an infrequnetly measured electrolyte in small animal patients. Currently, little is known about the prevalence and significance of abnormalities in serum Mg in animals. Therefore, a prospective study was performed to examine the incidence and clinical implications of abnormalities in serum Mg levels in critically ill dogs.

Serum Mg and other electrolytes were measured in 93 normal dogs housed at the Purina Pet Care Center and in 48 ill dogs admitted to a small animal critical care unit. The normal reference range for canine serum Mg was determined to be 1.89 – 2.51 mg/dl. Based on this range, 54% of the critically ill dogs were hypomagnesemic (< 1.89 mg/dl) and 13% were hypermagnesemic (> 2.51 mg/dl). Of the electrolytes measured in these patients, serum Mg had the highest prevalence of abnormal values. Hypomagnesemic patients had a significantly higher incidence of concurrent hypokalemia and hyponatremia (p < 0.05), as well as a longer length of hospitalization (p < 0.05) than their normomagnesemic counterparts. Hypermagnesemic patients were 2.6 times more likely not to survive their illness when compared to patients with normal serum Mg levels.

Abnormalities in serum Mg appear to be common in critically ill dogs. These patients commonly have other concurrent electrolyte abnormalities. Since serum Mg is not routinely measured, the presence of hypokalemia or hyponatremia should alert the clinician to the possibility of coexisting hypomagnesemia. The clinical implications of hypomagnesemia and hypermagnesemia in ill dogs appear to involve prolonged hospitalization and increased mortality, respectively: however, the exact etiology remains undetermined.