Intra- and inter-day variability in plasma tCO2 concentration in sedentary horses

B. E. Bergstrom, J. H. Foreman, C. R. Foreman, A. M. Barger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sodium bicarbonate and other alkalinising solutions ('milkshakes') have been given to horses surreptitiously before exercise to provide exogenous buffering effects. After an initial positive blood test, some accused horse trainers claim that their horses 'naturally test high', so some jurisdictions allow a secured quarantine in which the horse is tested multiple times. The objective of this experiment was to determine the intra- and inter-day variability of plasma total CO2 (tCO2) and other plasma strong ions in a group of sedentary horses housed similarly to a quarantine period. The hypothesis was that plasma tCO2 would not remain constant over a multi-day monitoring interval, but would vary measurably during that interval. Eight sedentary (unconditioned) horses were studied for 2 weeks. Horses were acclimated to a climate-controlled indoor environment and an alfalfa-only diet for a minimum of 10 days prior to sampling. Horses were sampled 3 times daily for 5 consecutive days at 7:00, 11:00 and 15:00 h. Blood samples were collected directly into 10 ml heparinised evacuated glass tubes by jugular venipuncture using a double-ended 0.91 mm needle. Samples were chilled until concentrations of plasma tCO2, Na+, K+, and Cl-, were determined within 1-3 h of sampling using an automated serum chemistry analyzer which was calibrated daily using commercial reagents obtained from the manufacturer as well as externally-obtained NIST-traceable calibrating solutions. Mean results documented mild variations in mean plasma tCO2 (range 28.9-31.6 mmol/l), but individual horses' plasma tCO2 ranged over 4-7 units. Results showed that there was considerable intra- and inter-individual variability in plasma tCO2. Mean pooled tCO2 and measured strong ion difference (SIDm) differed by time-of-day, with both late morning and early afternoon values lower than early morning values (P < 0.001). There was a strong positive linear relationship between plasma SIDm and tCO2 (r=0.75, P < 0.001).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)39-47
Number of pages9
JournalComparative Exercise Physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2014


  • Acid-base
  • Bicarbonate
  • Equine
  • Strong ion difference
  • Total carbon dioxide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Biochemistry
  • Physiology
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • veterinary (miscalleneous)
  • Physiology (medical)


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