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December 2019

Aust Vet J. 1992 Oct; 69(10): 249-54.

Hypokalaemic episodic polymyopathy in cats fed a vegetarian diet.

Leon A, Bain SA, Levick WR.

John Curtin School of Medical Research, Australian National University, Canberra.

A previously undocumented hypokalaemic condition with a cyclical nature, comprising acute bouts of polymyopathy followed by spontaneous recoveries, is described in the cat. Cats being fed a high protein vegetarian diet developed recurrent episodes of polymyopathy, characterised by ventroflexion of the head and neck, stiff forelimb gait, lateral head-resting and generalised muscle weakness. Plasma potassium concentrations (mean +/- standard deviation) were reduced from 3.28 +/- 0.33 mmol/l at the beginning of the experiment to 2.45 +/- 0.24 mmol/l during bouts of myopathy. This hypokalaemia was associated with increased creatine kinase activities indicative of muscle damage, and decreased urinary potassium concentrations, and was caused by insufficient dietary potassium. Cats that received the same diet supplemented with potassium did not develop hypokalaemic polymyopathy. Spontaneous recoveries of affected cats were not associated consistently with increases in plasma potassium concentrations. Plasma taurine concentrations decreased and glutamic acid increased markedly in all cats fed the experimental diet. There was no evidence of thiamin deficiency associated with the high glutamic acid intake. Veterinarians should be aware that hypokalaemic cats, and in particular those on potassium-deficient diets, may show cyclical disease with episodes of polymyopathy recurring after periods of spontaneous clinical recovery. This condition in cats may be a useful animal model for familial hypokalaemic periodic paralysis in humans.


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