Magnesium deficiency in cats: causes, symptoms and treatment

Magnesium deficiency in cats or hypomagnesemia is a clinical disorder that can occur in the animal’s body. Let’s see what the causes, symptoms and treatment are.

magnesium is an electrolyte found in the body both in the extracellular space and intracellular.

It is the most abundant substance in cells, second only to potassium.

Mostly widespread in the bones (60%) and soft tissues (38%) which then pours out for the most part in the skeletal muscle and liver.

Magnesium is introduced into the body from food, absorbed in the intestine and excreted by the kidneys.

In this article we will look at what causes magnesium deficiency in cats and what are the symptoms and possible treatment of the animal.

What is magnesium used for in cats

The usefulness of magnesium in the cat’s body consists of:

  • It is necessary for many metabolic functions;
  • It is an activator or catalyst for more than 300 enzyme systems, including enzymes involving adenosium triphosphate (ATP), which carries chemical energy within cells for metabolism;
  • It is an important participant in the action of enzymes in maintaining electrical balance across membranes;
  • It is important in the production and elimination of acetylcholine (a neurotransmitter).

The causes of magnesium deficiency in cats

The causes of a magnesium deficiency in cats can be different, for example:

  • severe malnutrition;
  • intestinal malabsorption diseases ;
  • poisonous drugs for the kidneys;
  • diabetes mellitus in cats;
  • use of diuretic drugs ;
  • excessive excretion of calcium through the urine.

Furthermore, in cats that are on dialysis it is possible that there may be a decrease in magnesium intake, due to a low quantity or total lack of magnesium in the fluids administered intravenously.

This happens mainly if they are long-term specimens on dialysis.


Symptoms that can be encountered for magnesium deficiency in cats can be the following:

  • arrhythmias in cats (abnormal heart rhythm);
  • uncoordinated (ataxia in cats);
  • weakness;
  • depression;
  • overactive reflexes;
  • muscle tremor;
  • severe muscle pain;
  • behavioural changes.

Diagnosis and treatment of magnesium deficiency in cats

Magnesium deficiency in cats or hypomagnesemia is a clinical sign, a wake-up call that tells us that we must continue investigations to find the true cause. Only in this way will it be possible to proceed with the care of the animal.

In order to then establish a diagnosis, the vet will have to carry out several tests and will most likely go for a differential diagnosis, i.e. excluding each of the most common causes until the correct ailment is found.

The doctor will perform the following tests:

  • ECG: The electrocardiogram can be useful for examining electrical currents in the heart muscles and can reveal any abnormalities in the electrical conduction of the heart;
  • Blood and urine tests: useful for ruling out drug-related poisoning and kidney disease;

Once a correct diagnosis of magnesium deficiency in cats has been established, the veterinarian will be able to proceed with the treatment of the animal, through suitable therapy.

A mild magnesium deficiency is resolved simply by treating the underlying ailment. While if we are talking about a serious deficiency, intensive and above all rapid treatment is necessary.

The therapy consists in the administration of digoxin suggested by the veterinarian and the use of diuretics always prescribed by the doctor.

It is important to follow the instructions precisely to avoid getting an excessive result and falling into hypermagnesaemia or excess magnesium in the cat’s body.

During the e phase of treatment and for the follow up, the doctor will have to check the magnesium levels in the cat daily and also the functionality of the animal’s heart.

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