What to look for in an oral electrolyte product

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Electrolytes perform the important functions of restoring fluids, correcting blood pH; restoring electrolyte balance and replacing lost nutrients to scouring and sick calves. Electrolyte products also are relatively inexpensive and easy to administer. But with the wide variety of product options, what should one look for when choosing an electrolyte?

University of Kentucky Extension veterinarian Michelle Arnold says the four key requirements for an effective electrolyte product are:

  • It must supply enough sodium to rapidly correct the losses that have occurred;
  • It must include agents (glucose, citrate, acetate, propionate, or glycine) that actually encourage absorption of sodium and water from the intestine;
  • It must provide an alkalinizing agent (acetate, propionate, or bicarbonate) to correct the blood from being too acidic;
  • It must provide energy because calves with diarrhea are in a negative energy balance.

Arnold says acetate and propionate are more effective alkalinizing agents than bicarbonate.  She emphasizes that milk or milk replacer should continue to be fed to scouring calves because milk is better at maintaining a normal blood glucose level than any electrolyte solution.  She also advises to never mix electrolytes with milk or milk replacer because electrolyte products are designed to be mixed with water only to be effective.

Read more of Arnold’s advice on choosing electrolyte products.



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