Indicators of dehydration in healthy 4- to 5-day-old dairy calves deprived of feed and water for 24 hours

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Elsevier BV for the American Dairy Science Association
Our objective was to identify practical indicators of calf dehydration that could be used in an industry context. Eleven healthy 4-d-old commercial dairy calves were fed 2 L of mixed colostrum, then deprived of food and water for 24 h. Total body water was determined in the fed state using the deuterium dilution method. Body weight, along with a range of behavioral and physiological variables, was recorded 1 h after feeding, then at 90-min intervals through to 24 h. Blood samples were collected at every second sampling to assess changes in plasma hemoglobin, hematocrit, and osmolality. Linear mixed-effects models were used to explore associations between hydration status (% body water) and outcome variables. All calves remained bright and alert with good suckling reflexes throughout the 24-h period. After 24 h, total body water had decreased by an average of 8.4% (standard error 1.18), consistent with mild to moderate dehydration. Skin tent return time, capillary refill time, and detectable enophthalmos were associated with hydration status. Calves with skin tent return times of 3 s or longer were 4.4 percentage points less hydrated than those with return times of less than 3 s. Similarly, a capillary refill time of 3 s or longer was associated with a 4.3 percentage point reduction in hydration compared with refill times of less than 3 s. Calves with detectable enophthalmos (≥1 mm) were 3.5 percentage points less hydrated than those without enophthalmos. The skin tent, capillary refill, and enophthalmos tests are all relatively simple to perform and, although requiring the calf to be briefly restrained, can easily be performed by a single operator. The outcome of these tests was relatively consistent, in that calves above the threshold in any test were 3.5 to 4.5% less hydrated than calves below the threshold. As such, these tests may be of practical utility to identify calves with mild to moderate dehydration in an industry setting.
bobby calf, dehydration, skin tent, capillary refill, enophthalmos
JOURNAL OF DAIRY SCIENCE, 2020, 103 (12), pp. 11820 - 11832