Expert: Not All Electrolyte Solutions Created Equal

Geoff Smith of North Carolina University believes that not all electrolyte solutions are equal and some can actually cause harm to the calf when trying to treat diarrhea.  Many people think that there is a significant amount of testing behind these solutions but according to Smith there isn’t.  He states, “Most of you, probably even some veterinarians, assume that there is some testing behind these products when they come out. This is very different from approved drugs, antibiotics or even vaccines.”  He goes on to say, “All of these (electrolytes), for the most part, are labeled as nutritional products. Not only have they not been through any efficacy testing, meaning there’s no specific research to say they work, but they haven’t even done safety testing.”

Diarrhea in calves causes dehydration and an increase in the acidity of the blood pH.  These conditions often cause the calf to stop eating; causing a nutritional deficiency.  According to Smith these items should be in your electrolyte solution to help with the imbalance while not upsetting the gut any further:

  • Sodium helps to correct dehydration.
  • Acetate or glycine aids in the absorption of sodium since it is not easily absorbed in the system.
  • Potassium and Chloride should also be in the solution because they are lost in diarrhea.
  • Alkalinizing agent to prevent acidosis. Acetate or bicarbonate can be used for this but Smith suggests using acetate because it not only inhibits the growth of certain bacteria in the gut but also provides an energy source as well as aids in the absorption of sodium.
  • An energy source should be a part of the solution to make sure that the calf doesn’t die from starvation, especially if the calf is being restricted from milk. Smith recommends adding a feeding between the regular milk feedings to make sure there is limited nutrient loss.

Along with making sure that these are in your electrolyte solution Smith suggests mixing the solution with water to help prevent bloat.  Another way to help prevent bloat is to make sure that your solution is omitting psyllium which slows the rate of passage.

Common mistakes that occur with calf diarrhea include:

  1. Not catching it early enough.
  2. Not giving enough fluids.
  3. Withholding milk.

Checking your electrolyte solution for these items and focusing on not making the common mistakes will aid in making sure you are limiting your losses.

Source: Sara Bredesen, The Country Today

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