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Blood & Abdominal Fluid Lactate Levels



Lactate is a compound that is produced when cells undergo anaerobic metabolism. In equine practice, blood lactate is used fairly frequently as an indication of degree of anaerobic metabolism.

In intestinal crises, in cases where intestine is not being adequately supplied with oxygen via blood supply, the lactate will often rise. Horses that are severely dehydrated or are in shock will also have high lactates.

More reliable than the blood lactate is lactate determined on the fluid that bathes the intestine (peritoneal or abdominal fluid). The ratio of blood lactate to peritoneal lactate can also be a helpful indicator in determining the nature of an intestinal problem and the need for surgery.

The serum lactate is a very rough indicator of degree of anaerobic metabolism in the body. It must be considered in light of many other findings. It is most helpful when compared to lactate levels in the abdominal fluid (peritoneal lactate).

Serum lactate (blood lactate) requires a blood sample be taken and the value determined on a chemistry analyzer. Peritoneal lactate requires the sampling of abdominal fluid.


Lactate levels can often be determined "in-house" and may provide additional information helpful in determining the nature of an intestinal crisis. Many equine clinics now have the ability to determine lactate on a sample.


Lactate elevations can result from many other causes including recent exercise, and generalized shock, so the results must be interpreted carefully.

Helpful Terms & Topics in HSVGWritten, Reviewed or Shared by Experts in Equine Health

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP


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