Message Number: YG7200 | New FHL Archives Search
Date: 2001-09-11 08:25:00 UTC
Subject: Re: renal failure and potassium levels

--- In Ferret-Health-list@y..., dbrn2@a... wrote:
> I don't know what happens in the ferret population, but in the
human population potassium levels are always high in renal failure
patients unless they are on potassium wasting diuretics.

I was just going by what I was told by friends who had relatives with
kidney failure. In these cases, the people were not on dialysis.
They were basically suffering from other illnesses and the kidneys
started shutting down. They told me that their relatives experienced
low potassium levels and had to be supplemented. Are dialysis
patients always in end-stage failure? That might be the difference.

You made me curious because I know for a fact that Champ (ferret) had
LOW potassium levels because he had to be supplemented (Tumil-K and
potassium chloride). As the disease progressed, his levels dropped
even more and more potassium supplements were added. I did a search
and found the Merck Manual (for humans) explanation but it was way
over my head.
"For substances that are excreted mainly through distal nephron
secretion (eg, K), adaptation usually produces a normal plasma
concentration until advanced failure occurs."
"The serum K is normal or only moderately elevated (< 6 mmol/L)
unless K-sparing diuretics, ACE inhibitors, -blockers, or angiotensin
receptor blockers are taken."
"K intake is closely related to meat, vegetable, and fruit ingestion
and usually does not require adjustment. Occasionally, renal tubular
dysfunction or vigorous diuretic therapy may necessitate K

I continued my search and found (human
chronic renal failure site) says:
"Potassium test may show elevated levels." which said:
"POTASSIUM - The failing kidney is unable to conserve potassium
efficiently and supplementation may be needed. Signs of "hypokalemia"
(the scientific name for low blood potassium) include weakness,
especially drooping of the head and neck."

Best I could understand, the potassium levels may become elevated in
humans during end-stage chronic renal failure. I can't speak to that
with Champ because I don't think he ever reached "end stage". The
congestive heart failure took him first. Interestingly enough, I
read at one of the sites that congestive heart failure can result
from chronic renal failure. I didn't know that. What I did learn
with Champ is that the fluid build-up is difficult to manage because
the drugs can cause further kidney damage, which he couldn't afford.

So, maybe it is somewhat different for animals and humans. Or, maybe
the difference is just beginning and mid-stage failure vs. end-stage.
I can't imagine that humans and animals would be that different.