Electrolytes and SID
Sodium (Na+) is essential to normalise extracellular fluid (ECF) volume after losses due to dehydration and Potassium (K+) and Chloride (Cl-) are both important contributors to fluid regulation in the body.
A careful balance
ORT products need to contain adequate levels of electrolytes to have the desired effect but not too much, to avoid the risk of salt toxicity. The ratio of electrolytes is another important consideration. SID is the sum of the difference between the strong cations and strong anions in a solution/body system i.e. SID = (Na+ + K+) – (Cl- + D&L lactate). Deviation from normal SID is the main contributor to metabolic acidosis.8 This is because animals with diarrhoea have a large loss of cations (Na+ and K+) relative to normal or increased strong anion concentrations.8
Young ruminants with scour are more prone to metabolic acidosis and excess D-lactic acid and therefore need alkalising agents at sufficient levels to correct this. Acetate and propionate are preferred over bicarbonate and citrate because they9:
- Enhance sodium absorption in calf small intestine
- Provide energy when metabolised and do not adversely affect growth rates
- Do not over-alkalise the abomasum which can increase the growth of E. coli and Salmonella spp.
- Have no impact on milk clotting.
Energy and continued milk feeding
Adequate provision of energy to scouring calves and lambs is very important to prevent loss of weight and delayed recovery. Milk is the best source of energy for scouring animals, as it not only provides energy but also essential amino acids (e.g. glutamine) and nutrients to repair the gut lining. Calves kept on milk do not lose weight compared to those removed from it, or given reduced amounts. In fact, calves left on milk can continue to gain weight.10
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