Potassium Salts

By Rania Gollakner, BS, DVM, MPH

What are potassium salts?

Potassium salts, or electrolytes, such as potassium chloride, potassium gluconate, and potassium acetate (brand names: K-G Elixir®, Kaon®, Kaylixir®, Kocura®, Onixol®, Potasoral®, Potassium-Rougier®, Renakare®, Sopa-K®, Tumil-K®, Ultra-K®, Klor-Con®, K-Tab®, K-dur®, K-Sol®) is an electrolyte salt used to treat low potassium levels (hypokalemia) in cats and dogs.

Its use in horses to treat low potassium levels is ‘off label’ or ‘extra label’. Many drugs are commonly prescribed for off label use in veterinary medicine. In these instances, follow your veterinarian’s directions and cautions very carefully as their directions may be significantly different from those on the label.

How are potassium salts given?

Potassium is given by mouth in the form of a tablet, powder, gel, or liquid solution. It should be given with food to help prevent stomach upset. It can also be given as an injection by your veterinarian in the hospital setting. Measure all doses carefully, as overdoses of this medication can have serious consequences.

This medication should take effect within 1 to 2 hours; however, effects may not be visibly noticeable and therefore laboratory tests may need to be done to evaluate this medication’s effectiveness.

What if I miss giving my pet the medication?

If you miss a dose, give it when you remember, but if it is close to the time for the next dose, skip the dose you missed and give it at the next scheduled time, and return to the regular dosing schedule. Never give your pet two doses at once or give extra doses.

Are there any potential side effects?

Side effects are uncommon but may include nausea or discomfort. Serious side effects that may indicate a high potassium level include muscle weakness, severe vomiting, diarrhea, blood in the stool or vomit, and collapse.

This short-acting medication should stop working within 24 hours, although effects can be longer in pets with liver or kidney disease.

Are there any risk factors for this medication?

Potassium salts should not be used in pets that have high potassium levels, urination problems, tissue damage, uncontrolled Addison’s disease, or dehydration. Forms given by mouth should not be used in pets with gastrointestinal movement problems. Potassium salts should be used cautiously in pets using digoxin, or pets with acid-base imbalance, kidney disease, stomach ulcers, or heart disease. Use cautiously in pregnant or lactating animals although use is likely safe as long as the dose is appropriate.

Are there any drug interactions I should be aware of?

The following medications should be used with caution when given with potassium electrolytes: Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, angiotensin receptor blockers, antimuscarinics, digoxin, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or potassium-sparing diuretics.

Be sure to tell your veterinarian about any medications (including vitamins, supplements, or herbal therapies) that your pet is taking.

Is there any monitoring that needs to be done with this medication?

Prior to starting this medication, kidney and heart function should be assessed. Depending on the reason for therapy, other monitoring may include potassium levels, other electrolyte levels, acid-base status, blood sugar levels, electrocardiogram (ECG) to monitor heart rhythms, blood cell counts, and urinalysis. Your veterinarian may monitor your pet to be sure that the medication is working.

How do I store potassium electrolytes?

Potassium electrolyte tablets should be stored at room temperature between 59°F and 86°F (15°C and 30°C) and protected from light unless otherwise noted on the label.

What should I do in case of emergency?

If you suspect an overdose or an adverse reaction to the medication, call your veterinary office immediately. If they are not available, follow their directions in contacting an emergency facility.

Related Articles