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Electrocardiographic assessment of hyperkalemia in dogs and cats


Address correspondence and reprint requests to:
Dr. Tanya Lynn Tag, 534 S Palmway, Lake Worth, FL 33460.


Objective: To determine if electrocardiogram (ECG) changes induced by hyperkalemia in clinical patients correspond with previously reported changes in experimental animals.

Design: Prospective clinical study.

Setting: Two private practice 24-hour emergency and critical care facilities.

Animals: Fifteen dogs and 22 cats with serum potassium levels >5.5 mEq/L.

Interventions: None.

Measurements: The following data were collected when hyperkalemia was documented: ECG (n=37), sodium and chloride (mEq/L) (n=35), total magnesium (mg/dL) (n=18), total calcium (mg/dL) (n=30), and venous pH (n=18). Animals were divided into five groups based on severity of hyperkalemia and ECG interpretation included rate, rhythm and P-QRS-T evaluation.

Main Results: Twenty-two of 37 (59%) of the ECGs were normal or revealed abnormalities that have not been previously described in conjunction with hyperkalemia. In dogs, there was no correlation (r=0) between potassium blood levels and heart rate (n=15). There was weak correlation (r=0.40; P=0.06) between potassium blood levels and heart rate in cats (n=22). The correlation was stronger (r=0.64; P<0.05) when data were compared in cats with serum potassium level >8.5 mEq/L (Groups 4 and Group 5; n=11).

Conclusions: ECGs obtained from ill dogs and cats with hyperkalemia are inconsistent with ECGs from experimentally induced hyperkalemia. It is difficult to determine the clinical relevance of heart rate differences between cats with serum potassium levels >8.5 mEq/L and animals with experimentally induced hyperkalemia; this may be due to the presence of other biochemical abnormalities in diseased animals.