Neonatal calf diarrhea is a major source of economic loss to the cattle industry and the leading cause of calf deaths in most countries. Diarrhea is an important cause of morbidity and death in unweaned dairy heifer calves in the United States. In 2002, the USDA estimated that 6.5% of the annual calf crop died from diarrhea between birth and weaning.1 Diarrhea can lead to dehydration, strong ion (metabolic) acidosis, hyperkalemia, and impaired cardiovascular and renal function.2,3,4 Orally administered electrolyte solutions are practical and inexpensive for treating mild to moderate strong ion acidosis and dehydration in neonatal ruminants that have a suckle reflex. However, there is still uncertainty about the optimal electrolyte concentrations, type of buffer, and type and amount of energy source as well as the pH and osmolarity of the solution.3,5 It has been suggested that the optimal formulation for an OAES should include a sodium concentration from 90 to 130 mmol/L; a potassium concentration from 10 to 20 mmol/L; a chloride concentration from 40 to 80 mmol/L; 40 to 80 mmol/L of metabolizable (non bicarbonate) base, such as acetate or propionate; and glucose as a source of energy.3,5
Most OAESs that are commercially available in the United States use bicarbonate as an alkalinizing agent. There are at least 3 lines of evidence to indicate that bicarbonate-containing OAESs are not optimal for treating diarrheic calves. First, suckling a bicarbonate-containing OAES reduces weight gain in diarrheic calves, relative to suckling a non–bicarbonate-containing OAES. This effect is attributed to interference with normal clot formation in the abomasum of milk-fed calves.6 Bicarbonate- and citrate-containing OAESs markedly prolong milk clotting time when mixed 1:1 with whole milk; in contrast, acetate-containing OAESs do not alter milk clotting time.7,8 Second, healthy neonatal calves fed milk replacer and bicarbonate-containing OAESs have a significantly higher prevalence of diarrhea than calves receiving milk replacer and non–bicarbonate-containing OAESs.9 Third, OAESs that use acetate as the alkalinizing agent induce higher clinical recovery rates at 36 hours and 72 hours in calves with diarrhea than do other OAESs, including those that contain bicarbonate.10 Acetate and propionate have similar alkalinizing abilities as bicarbonate on an equimolar basis, with the advantages being that acetate and propionate are readily metabolized by peripheral tissues and do not alkalinize the abomasum and proximal portion of the small intestine, whereas bicarbonate can permit bacteria to proliferate in an alkalinized abomasum.2,11,12
The rate of abomasal emptying influences the rate at which ingesta is delivered to the small intestine. With an OAES, the small intestine is the major site of fluid absorption thus influencing the rate of rehydration of a sick calf. We hypothesized that isotonic solutions of sodium acetate, NaHCO3, and NaCl would be emptied rapidly from the abomasum but that suckling NaHCO3 would result in a sustained increase of abomasal luminal pH, compared with suckling sodium acetate or NaCl. The objectives of the study reported here were therefore to determine and compare the abomasal emptying rate following suckling of 3 common OAES components (sodium acetate, NaHCO3, and NaCl) via scintigraphy, acetaminophen absorption, and ultrasonography and to monitor the dynamics of abomasal luminal pH for 12 hours after OAES ingestion in calves.
Maximum observed plasma concentration
Enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli
Orally administered electrolyte solution
Time of maximum observed plasma concentration
Percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy kit, MILA Instruments Inc, Florence, Ky.
Agri Master, Supreme All Milk, Blain Supply, Janesville, Wis.
M3 internal reference glass pH electrode, Medical Instruments Corp, Solothurn, Switzerland.
Cole-Parmer pH/mV/Rel mV/oC Bench top Meter, Cole-Parmer Instrument Co, Vernon Hills, Ill.
Windaq, DATAQ Instruments, Akron, Ohio.
Sigma-Aldrich Inc, St Louis, Mo.
Technicare Omega 500, Technicare Corp, Cleveland, Ohio.
Alfanuclear IM512P, MEDX, Arlington Heights, Ill.
Ultramark 4, Advanced Technology Laboratories, Tempe, Ariz.
Marshall T, Constable PD, Wittek T, et al. Ability of the abomasal luminal pH-time relationship to predict the abomasal emptying rate in Holstein bull calves (abstr), in Proceedings. 23rd World Buiatrics Cong 2004;34:112.
PROC NLIN, SAS 8e, SAS Institute, Cary, NC.
PROC MIXED, SAS 8e, SAS Institute, Cary, NC.
USDA. Part II. Changes in the United States Dairy Industry, 1991–2002 Fort Collins, Colo: USDA, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, National Animal Health Monitoring System, 2002;25–26.
Roussel AJ, Kasari TR. Using fluid and electrolyte replacement therapy to help diarrheic calves. Vet Med (Praha) 1990;85:303–311.
Constable PD. Fluids and electrolyte therapy in ruminants. Vet Clin North Am Food Anim Pract. 2003;19:557–597.
Constable PD, Stampfli HR, Navetat H, et al. Use of a quantitative strong ion approach to determine the mechanism for acidbase abnormalities in diarrheic and sick calves. J Vet Intern Med 2005;19:581–589.
Constable PD, Thomas E, Boisrame B. Comparison of two oral electrolyte solutions for the treatment of dehydrated calves with experimentally-induced diarrhoea. Vet J 2001;162:129–140.
Heath SE, Naylor JM, Guedo BL, et al. The effects of feeding milk to diarrheic calves supplemented with oral electrolytes. Can J Vet Res 1989;53:477–485.
Bywater RJ. Comparison between milk deprivation and oral rehydration with a glucose-glycine-electrolyte formulation in diarrhoeic and transported calves. Vet Rec 1980;107:549–551.
Naylor JM. Effects of electrolyte solutions for oral administration on clotting of milk. J Am Vet Med Assoc 1992;201:1026–1029.
Fettman MJ, Brooks PA, βurrows KP, et al. Evaluation of commercial oral replacement formulas in healthy neonatal calves. J Am Vet Med Assoc 1986;188:397–401.
Vallet A, Grenet N, Gauthier D. Influence des conditions d'elevage sur la frequence des diarrhees de veaus nouveau-nes et sur l'efficacite de leur traitment par voie orale. Ann Rech Vet 1985;16:297–303.
Sen I, Constable PD, Marshall TS. Effect of suckling isotonic or hypertonic solutions of sodium bicarbonate or glucose on abomasal emptying rate in calves. Am J Vet Res 2006;67:1377–1384.
Nouri M, Constable PD. Comparison of two oral electrolyte solutions and route of administration on the abomasal emptying rate of Holstein-Friesian calves. J Vet Intern Med 2006;20:620–626.
Ahmed AF, Constable PD, Misk NA. Effect of orally administered cimetidine and ranitidine on abomasal luminal pH in clinically normal milk-fed calves. Am J Vet Res 2001;62:1531–1538.
Ahmed AF, Constable PD, Misk NA. Abomasal cannulation in the milk-fed calf using a 7 mm polyurethane tube. J Vet Med A Physiol Pathol Clin Med 2005;52:39–42.
Marshall TS, Constable PD, Crochik SS, et al. Determination of abomasal emptying rate in suckling calves by use of nuclear scintigraphy and acetaminophen absorption. Am J Vet Res 2005;66:364–374.
Wittek T, Constable PD, Marshall TS, et al. Ultrasonographic measurement of abomasal volume, location, and emptying rate in calves. Am J Vet Res 2005;66:537–544.
Maes BD, Ghoos YF, Geypens BJ, et al. Combined carbon-13-glycine/carbon-14-ocatnoic acid breath test to monitor gastric emptying rates of liquids and solids. J Nucl Med 1994;35:824–831.
Holt S, Cervantes J, Wilkinson AA, et al. Measurement of gastric emptying rate in humans by real-time ultrasound. Gastroenterology 1986;90:918–923.
Clements JA, Heading RC, Nimmo WS, et al. Kinetics of acetaminophen absorption and gastric emptying in man. Clin Pharmacol Ther 1978;24:420–431.
Nappert G, Lattimer JC. Comparison of abomasal emptying in neonatal calves with a nuclear scintigraphic procedure. Can J Vet Res 2001;65:50–54.
Marzio L, Formica P, LaPenna D, et al. Influence of physical activity on gastric emptying of liquids in normal human subjects. Am J Gastroenterol 1991;86:1433–1436.
Demigné C, Rémésy C, Chartier F, et al. Effect of acetate or chloride anions on intestinal absorption of water and solutes in the calf. Am J Vet Res 1981;42:1356–1359.
Hunt JN, Stubbs DF. The volume and energy content of meals as determinants of gastric emptying. J Physiol 1975;245:209–225.
Jacks TM, Schleim KD, Judith FR, et al. Cephamycin C treatment of induced enterotoxigenic colibacillosis (scours) in calves and piglets. Antimicrob Agents Chemother 1980;18:397–402.
Mouricout M, Petit JM, Carias JR, et al. Glycoprotein glycans that inhibit adhesion of Escherichia coli mediated by K99 fimbriae: treatment of experimental colibacillosis. Infect Immun 1990;58:98–106.
Bywater RJ. Evaluation of an oral glucose-glycine-electrolyte formulation and amoxicillin for treatment of diarrhea in calves. Am J Vet Res 1977;38:1983–1987.
Dupe RJ, Goddard ME, Bywater RJ. A comparison of two oral rehydration solutions in experimental models of dehydration and diarrhoea in calves. Vet Rec 1989;125:620–624.
White DG, Johnson CK, Cracknell V. Comparison of danofloxacin with baquiloprim/sulphadimidine for the treatment of experimentally induced Escherichia coli diarrhoea in calves. Vet Rec 1998;143:273–276.
Robinson RA, Loken KI. Age susceptibility and excretion of Salmonella typhimurium in calves. J Hyg (Lond) 1968;66:207–216.
Segall T, Lindberg AA. Experimental oral Salmonella dublin infection in calves. A bacteriological and pathological study. Zentralbl Veterinarmed [B] 1991;38:169–185.
Bohnhoff M, Miller CP, Martin WR. Resistance of the mouse's intestinal tract to experimental salmonella infection. J Exp Med 1964;120:805–816.
Wray C, Callow RJ. Studies on the survival of Salmonella dublin, S. typhimurium, and E. coli in stored bovine colostrum. Vet Rec 1974;94:407–412.
Chambers PG, Lysons RJ. The inhibitory effect of bovine rumen fluid on Salmonella typhimurium. Res Vet Sci 1979;26:273–276.
Francis DH, Allen SD, White RD. Influence of bovine intestinal fluid on the expression of K99 pili by Escherichia coli. Am J Vet Res 1989;50:822–826.
Mitchell IG, Tame MJ, Kenworthy R. Conditions for the production of Escherichia coli enterotoxin in a defined medium. J Med Microbiol 1974;7:395–400.
Leibholz J. Dietary effects on the flow of nutrients from the abomasum of the preruminant calf. Aust J Agric Res 1975;26:623–633.
Wegner TN, Stull JW. Relation between mastitis test score, mineral composition of milk, and blood electrolyte profiles in Holstein cows. J Dairy Sci 1978;61:1755–1759.
Rashid MU, Bateman DN. Effect of intravenous atropine on gastric emptying, paracetamol absorption, salivary flow and heart rate in young and fit elderly volunteers. Br J Clin Pharmacol 1990;30:25–34.