Clinical signs, profound acidemia, hypoglycemia, and hypernatremia are predictive of mortality in 1,400 critically ill neonatal calves with diarrhea
Profound acidemia impairs cellular and organ function and consequently should be associated with an increased risk of mortality in critically ill humans and animals. Neonatal diarrhea in calves can result in potentially serious metabolic derangements including profound acidemia due to strong ion (metabolic) acidosis, hyper-D-lactatemia, hyper-L-lactatemia, azotemia, hypoglycemia, hyperkalemia and hyponatremia. The aim of this retrospective study was to assess the prognostic relevance of clinical and laboratory findings in 1,400 critically ill neonatal calves with diarrhea admitted to a veterinary teaching hospital. The mortality rate was 22%. Classification tree analysis indicated that mortality was associated with clinical signs of neurologic disease, abdominal emergencies, cachexia, orthopedic problems such as septic arthritis, and profound acidemia (jugular venous blood pH < 6.85). When exclusively considering laboratory parameters, classification tree analysis identified plasma glucose concentrations < 3.2 mmol/L, plasma sodium concentrations ≥ 151 mmol/L, serum GGT activity < 31 U/L and a thrombocyte count < 535 G/L as predictors of mortality. However, multivariable logistic regression models based on these laboratory parameters did not have a sufficiently high enough sensitivity (59%) and specificity (79%) to reliably predict treatment outcome. The sensitivity and specificity of jugular venous blood pH < 6.85 were 11% and 97%, respectively, for predicting non-survival in this study population. We conclude that laboratory values (except jugular venous blood pH < 6.85) are of limited value for predicting outcome in critically ill neonatal calves with diarrhea. In contrast, the presence of specific clinical abnormalities provides valuable prognostic information.