Changes in arterial, mixed venous and intraerythrocytic concentrations of ions in supramaximally exercising horses

W. M. Bayly, J. K. Kingston, J. A. Brown, R. D. Keegan, S. A. Greene, R. H. Sides

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Reasons for performing study: Horses experience major perturbations in acid-base balance during supramaximal exercise. Ion movement in and out of erythrocytes (RBCs) is believed to be important in maintaining acid-base balance but it is unclear as to the extent to which this happens, nor how it affects single measurements of ion concentrations in arterial and venous blood. Objectives: To clarify the role RBCs play in mitigating perturbations in acid-base balance during high speed exercise in horses, and to describe associated differences in arterial (a) and mixed venous (v) concentrations of key ions. Methods: Six exercise-trained Thoroughbreds galloped to fatigue at speeds calculated to have an oxygen demand that was 115% of the VO2max. Blood samples (a and v) were collected pre-exercise, during warm-up, at fatigue, and immediately post exercise. Packed cell volume (PCV), pH, PCO2, and plasma concentrations of bicarbonate (HCO3-), chloride (Cl-), sodium (Na+), potassium (K+), and lactate (Lac-) and strong ion difference (SID) were determined, and RBC concentrations of Lac- and electrolytes calculated for each sample. Data were analysed using a 2-way ANOVA for repeated measures testing for effects of sampling time and site (P<0.05). Results: Plasma and RBC [Cl-] were increased with hypercapnoea and acidaemia. [HCO3-]v was greater than pre-exercise values at fatigue, although [HCO3-]a was lower. Hyperkalaemia and decreased RBC [K+] were evident at fatigue, as was an increased RBC [Na+]. Plasma [K+] started to decrease as soon as exercise ceased and Na+ began to move back onto RBCs in exchange for K+. Concentrations of all measures of Lac- rose from fatigue to post exercise. The SID decreased with exercise and was higher in v at fatigue and post exercise, reflecting the decrease in pH. Conclusions: RBCs act as a repository for lactate, and therefore the increase in PCV facilitates the maintenance of the muscle to plasma Lac- diffusion gradient during exercise. Potential relevance: This serves to keep intramuscular [Lac-] lower than it would otherwise be and, because of the link between Lac- accumulation, pH decrease and the onset of fatigue, may help delay the onset of fatigue.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)294-297
Number of pages4
JournalEquine veterinary journal
Issue numberSUPPL.36
StatePublished - Aug 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Acid-base
  • Horse
  • Intraerythrocytic
  • Ions
  • Lactate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Equine


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