• Open Access

Clinical Efficacy of Intravenous Hypertonic Saline Solution or Hypertonic Bicarbonate Solution in the Treatment of Inappetent Calves with Neonatal Diarrhea


Corresponding author: Martin Kaske, Dr med vet, Physiology Weihenstephan, Technical University of Munich, Weihenstephaner Berg 3, D-85354 Freising-Weihenstephan, Munich, Germany; e-mail: kaske@wzw.tum.de.


Background: The clinical efficacy of IV administered hypertonic saline solution and hypertonic bicarbonate solution (HBS) in the treatment of inappetent diarrheic calves has not been compared yet.

Hypothesis: HBS is more advantageous than hypertonic saline in the treatment of calves with severe metabolic acidosis.

Animals: Twenty-eight dehydrated, inappetent calves with neonatal diarrhea.

Methods: In 2 consecutive clinical studies, calves were initially treated with saline (5.85%; 5 mL/kg body weight [BW] over 4 minutes; study I: N = 16) or bicarbonate solution (8.4%; 10 mL/kg BW over 8 minutes; study II: N = 12), respectively, followed by oral administration of 3 L isotonic electrolyte solution 5 minutes after injection. Clinical and laboratory variables were monitored for 72 hours.

Results: Treatment failed in 6 calves of study I and in 1 calf of study II as indicated by a deterioration of the general condition. All treatment failures had more severe metabolic acidosis compared with successfully treated calves before treatment. In the latter, rehydration was completed within 18 hours after injection; metabolic acidosis was corrected within 24 hours (study I) and 6 hours (study II) after injection.

Conclusions and Clinical Importance: Diarrheic calves with slight metabolic acidosis (base excess [BE] >−10 mM) can be treated successfully with hypertonic saline. HBS is appropriate in calves without respiratory problems with more severe metabolic acidosis (BE up to −20 mM). Intensive care of the calves is required to ensure a sufficient oral fluid intake after the initial IV treatment.