Magnesium deficiency or hypomagnesaemia in dogs is the lack of a crucial mineral for all cellular processes that require ATP (adenosine triphosphate). Since magnesium levels are also related to processes that use potassium, sodium and calcium, low magnesium levels can quickly translate into lower levels of these minerals. In particular, sodium and potassium are involved in muscle movement and heart rate. It follows that, if left untreated, hypomagnesaemia can be a dangerous condition.
The dog needs essential vitamins and minerals just like the human being. One of these key nutrients is magnesium, which is involved in cellular energy production. Whenever the dog moves a muscle or has a heart beat, magnesium is needed to facilitate that transfer of energy. Three other minerals are involved: sodium, potassium and calcium, all dependent to some extent on the action of magnesium.
These minerals are necessary for proper heart function, muscle movement and the nervous system signaling system. In case of malnutrition, diabetes or kidney damage, the body has an insufficient amount of magnesium. This deficiency, in turn, causes the levels of the three minerals mentioned above to drop. This can cause weakness, muscle tremors and cardiac arrhythmias which can be fatal. If your dog behaves strangely, feels pain or difficulty walking, make an appointment with the vet immediately.
Symptoms of magnesium deficiency in dogs
- Muscle weakness or tremor
- Hyperactive or improperly triggered reflexes
- Difficulty walking
- Muscular pain
- Cardiac arrhythmia
- Lethargy or abnormal behavior
Causes of magnesium deficiency in dogs
- Kidney damage
- Diuretic treatment
- Pathology that inhibits the absorption of nutrients
Diagnosis of magnesium deficiency in dogs
If you notice that your dog appears weak, experiences walking difficulties (difficulty walking) or ataxia (lack of coordination), these may be signs of magnesium deficiency and an appointment with the veterinarian should be made immediately. This deficiency needs to be corrected quickly to avoid the onset of fatal heart problems. Make sure to report any changes you have made to the dog’s feeding regime, any other treatments the dog has received, and whether his urination and defecation habits have changed. Sometimes, if the dog is treated with diuretics (drugs that promote the elimination of excess fluids), he can lose an excessive amount of magnesium during the process of eliminating this liquid by urination.
The vet will auscultate your dog’s heart and, if an abnormality is detected, he will recommend an electrocardiogram (ECG). The latter is a diagnostic test that allows the recording and graphic visualization of the electrical activity of the dog’s heart on a screen using terminals fixed to the animal’s chest. The classic signs of low magnesium levels are: prolonged PR intervals, widened QRS complexes, depression of the ST segment and high, pointed T waves.
Subsequently, even if the dog does not show these cardiac symptoms, the vet will likely order one electrolyte examination which will measure the quantities of minerals such as magnesium, potassium, calcium and sodium present in the animal’s blood in addition to some other common electrolytes. This examination must be sent to the laboratory. If the results confirm low levels of magnesium, the veterinarian will then proceed to formulate the treatment options.
Treatment of magnesium deficiency in dogs
The conditions that can cause low levels of magnesium are varied, including diabetes, kidney disease or drug treatment that puts the kidneys under stress and diseases that inhibit the absorption of nutrients such as IBD (inflammatory bowel disease). If these conditions are kept under control, the chances of a magnesium deficiency are low. Its occurrence indicates that the pre-existing condition may need further treatment.
The treatment for magnesium deficiency alone is simple and consists in the administration of chewable magnesium supplements or, in severe cases, intravenously. Typically, this is all it takes to correct the condition. In cases of malnutrition, where magnesium deficiency has been present for some time, correction of the associated electrolytes, in particular potassium and calcium, may also be necessary.
Can my dog fully recover?
In the absence of underlying conditions, dogs that are treated quickly usually recover completely. However, recovery should be carefully monitored especially if magnesium supplements are prescribed. This is because even an excessive amount of magnesium in the body is an undesirable condition. It will therefore be of fundamental importance to follow the veterinarian’s instructions.
Especially during the first days of treatment, the veterinarian may request electrolyte tests on a daily basis and potentially an electrocardiogram during the administration of the treatment, if the latter occurs intravenously. Do not hesitate to contact your veterinarian promptly in case one of the symptoms recurs or if the dog develops new ones.