As your cat ages, they will encounter numerous changes over time that will eventually lead to a failure of their organs and internal systems – this is a fact of life. However, it is possible to prolong their longevity by paying attention to the special needs that of older felines and by providing your cat with those elements that they will benefit from as they grow older.
Recent studies have proven that imbalances in feline potassium levels are directly related to certain health conditions and issues that older cats are prone to. Fortunately, the condition is treatable, and cats are not only healthier now, but they have longer life expectancies today than ever before. So let's take a look at the potassium issue from the perspective of what it is and what it does, as well as why it is so important to the life of an older cat.
What is Potassium and What Does It Do?
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center's website, Potassium is defined as "a mineral that helps the kidneys function normally. It also plays a key role in cardiac, skeletal, and smooth muscle contraction, making it an important nutrient for normal heart, digestive, and muscular function." Potassium is also found in felines – specifically, in their blood and within all their body cells.
Clinical studies have proven that it is an essential component for proper cell function in felines and is of utmost importance to the cells that cardiac and skeletal muscles are comprised of. With felines, just as is the case with humans, depleted potassium levels oftentimes result in severe weakening in all aspects of the muscular system.
Why is Potassium So Important to Older Felines?
Clinical studies recently revealed a dual avenue of importance in the relationship of older felines and proper potassium levels. Hypokalemia, which is an insufficient level of blood potassium, has been found to be common in mild form in older felines. It is most commonly associated with inactivity, lack of exercise, and lethargic behavior in these older cats. Additionally, it is also associated with poor appetite, bad conditions or the coat and skin, and the occurrence of anemia.
It was originally hypothesized that these conditions were the result of the aging process, but these clinical studies have proven this to be incorrect. It is unfortunate, however, that there is currently no test that is conclusive enough to prove the conditions are truly correlated with insufficient potassium levels since the blood potassium screenings are not a true reflection of the entire body's potassium levels. What is certain is that the reversal of the process is effected with dietary potassium supplementation.
Secondly, there is a correlation between sufficient potassium levels (or an increase of these levels) and the longevity of kidney function. In most cases, the kidneys are the first of the major organs to fail in older cats. As the cat ages, its kidneys begin to fail in the removal of toxins in there systems. As a natural reaction, the cat consumes more water to elevate the frequency of urination in order to flush these toxins from their systems. The unfortunate side effect is that increased urination depletes the cat's potassium levels. The result is the onset of Hypokalemia (see above).
Fortunately, the discovery of the above two conditions (relative to potassium levels) has provided us with the knowledge of interrupting these vicious cycles by virtue of dietary potassium supplementation. Not only does this supplementation prolong the longevity of kidney function, it supports those functions as well. Additionally, felines will act, eat, and feel better in the long run.