The pH of an Animals Blood is Critical!

by Dr. Robert O. Young / WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 29, 2006

DrYoung The pH of an animals (especially a race horse) blood is critical!

If you are looking for the reason why there is a sudden, and apparently inexplicable, drop in a horse's racetrack performance ... then continue to read!!!

The one single factor which causes a horse to "train off" faster than any other is a disturbance in its blood pH balance. Almost impossible to detect, especially in its early stages, this pH disturbance can be attributed to an excessive build-up of acids in the horse's system, a depletion of its natural alkaline reserves, injudicious training techniques; and other closely associated factors such as high grain diets, the prevailing climate and workload.

A drop in the pH indicates an increase in the acidity of the blood. In lay terms, this is referred to as "acidosis", but more correctly it is the LOWERING OF THE ALKALINE RESERVES. The blood of the equine athlete has a very delicate acid/alkali balance. Optimum performance demands that this balance be maintained within very narrow, even critical, limits.


THE pH OF A SOLUTION is a symbol for the power of the hydrogen ions multiplied by 10. AN ACID is a solution which provides hydrogen ions (H +) and can thus increase the H + of a solution, consequently lowering the pH - i.e. increase the activity.

A BASE is a substance which accepts hydrogen ions and can thus decrease the H + of a solution, consequently raising the pH - i.e. decreasing the acidity or raising the alkalinity.

THE pH OF THE BLOOD has to be maintained within extremely narrow ranges for optimum physiological functions. Wide variations, which are encountered in certain diseased states, are life-threatening.

ACIDOSIS is a loose term which is applied to a LOWERED ALKALINE RESERVE in the body. From the point of view of a horse in training, as opposed to the many pathological conditions that can result in acidosis, a LOWERED ALKALINE RESERVE is the direct result of strenuous muscular exercise.

LACTIC ACID is an organic acid normally present in muscle tissue, produced by anaerobic (in the presence of inadequate oxygen) muscle metabolism; it consists of 2 parts positive hydrogen ion and a negative lactate ion. It is formed when the glycogen stored in the muscles is broken down and used for energy.

Study of 1,379 horses

Analysis of 1,379 racehorse bloods confirms need for an alkaline reserve replacer.A unique and exhaustive study on the precise effects of work and climate on the body chemistry of a racehorse in training was conducted by RANVET in 1986 at Sydney's Randwick Racecourse.

A total of 1,379 horses were involved in the study, one of the most comprehensive ever undertaken in Australia. A normal pH level was determined; the dramatic drop in base excess levels which were observed established the need for an alkaline reserve replacer, and recovery rates were monitored.

This study was undertaken by one of Australia's most eminent racehorse veterinarians who continued working on the project up until the beginning of 1992.

A summary of his findings is set out in the tables below.

Blood Gas Analyses of Horses in Training.

Summer and Winter

Table ONE: Fast Work - SUMMER

Time Blood
Samples Collected were for the following
1) pH
2) HCO3
3) Base Excess
4) H2 /HCO*3 Ratio

Saddled before work
7.406 pH
29.91 HCO3
6.09 Base Excess
1/18.81 H2/HCO3 Ratio

10 minutes after work
7.230 pH
14.23 HCO3-
10.75 Base Excess
1/12.71 H2/HCO3 Ratio

2 1/2 hours after work
7.395 pH
28.49 HCO3
4.06 Base Excess
1/16.96 H2/HCO3 Ratio

5 hours after work
7.395 pH
27.00 HCO3
4.45 Base Excess
1/17.25 H2/HCO3 Ratio

7 hours after work
7.350 pH
26.02 HCO3
3.58 Base Excess
1/15.16 H2/HCO3 Ratio

*The normal ratio = approximately 1/20

NB: Summer heat and humidity tends to reduce this ratio i.e. a tendency towards acidosis.

Table TWO: Fast Work - WINTER

Time Blood

Samples Collected
Base Excess
H2 /HCO*3 Ratio

Saddled before work

7.44 pH
32.55 HCO3
8.23 Base Excess
1/21.27 H2/HCO3 Ratio

10 minutes after work
7.237 pH
13.85 HCO3-
11.24 Base Excess
1/14.58 H2/HCO3 Ratio

2 hours after work
7.430 pH
29.93 HCO3
5.90 Base Excess
1/20.50 H2/HCO3 Ratio

3 1/2-4 hours after work
7.431 pH
29.24 HCO3
5.97 Base Excess
1/20.45 H2/HCO3

Ratio 5 hours after work
7.438 pH
29.57 HCO3
6.80 Base Excess
1/19.77 H2/HCO3 Ratio

6 hours after work
7.437 pH
30.48 HCO3
1/20.32 Base Excess

NB: Recovery times quicker in winter.

What is a normal pH for a Horse?
The normal pH of a horse's blood is between 7.42 and 7.45, so you can see just how narrow the range is... "point 03 " of a decimal point in fact! Any reading below 7.40 is an indication of "acidosis" (see Table ONE), while a reading of 7.20 would indicate severe "acidosis" (a severely depleted alkaline reserve).

An explanation of what goes on.

Regardless of whether it is summer or winter, the end result of (a) converting grain to energy and (b) hard work and stress, is an abnormally high production of BODY ACIDS in the horse's system. Highly strung horses produce even greater amounts of body acids, as they expend more energy than the placid animal.

Lactic acid accumulates in the muscle when the supply of oxygen is insufficient for the oxidative processes and quickly diffuses out into the blood stream. In moderate exercise the rate of rise of lactic acid is greatest at the very start of exercise before the circulatory and respiratory systems have reached optimum output. This diminishes as a steady state develops.

The unfit horse and the horse coming into work fresh, or for the first time, produces greater quantities of lactic acid for a given workload. As the horse becomes fitter, his ability to buffer and cope with the acid produced improves quite considerably. Fillies also seem to be more prone to this condition than colts or geldings. The reasons for this are presumably hormonal, but as yet are not clearly understood.

In strenuous exercise, due to the relative deficiency of oxygen, the excessive accumulation of lactate ions represents a considerable acidosis with a marked lowering of bicarbonate concentration.

The body cannot stand acidosis for long and it has a very effective built-in system to counter it. Following exercise some lactic acid and acidic glucose builds up in the bloodstream creating even more acidity and the increased need for alkaline buffers.

The other compensating mechanisms are (1) increased respiration which lowers the carbon dioxide tension (pCO) and (2) increased excretion of hydrogen ions via the kidneys.

In exercise, a much greater quantity of lactic acid escapes in the urine. Such a process helps to minimize the production of acidosis, but it also represents a loss of base as well as energy producing substances.

Quite simply, buffers and buffer systems "mop up" the excess acid, neutralizing it, but this is done at a cost and particularly where very considerable amounts of lactic acid are produced, the buffer system can be overtaxed, i.e. the cost is too high. A major part of the buffer system is sodium bicarbonate, which combines with acid and carries it away. It can be seen that bicarbonate therefore is used up as that acid is neutralized and removed; that is the price, a loss of bicarbonate.

It should be pointed out that adding the right kind of supplementary alkaline elemental buffers can be good for the horse. This is why I created pHorse Power(TM) - an alkaline supplement containing the four bicarbonate salts of sodium, magnesium, potassium and calcium and an array of green vegetables and fruits. Recommended dosage is 30g per day to your horse's feed or water to maintain an alkaline balance and a healthy and strong horse.

pHorse Power(TM) will help to strengthen the horses alkaline buffering system and to allow them to better cope with the surges of lactic acid after races and workouts. This strengthening of the buffering system can easily be done by adding pHorse Power(TM) to the water or feed on a daily basis.

pHorse Power(TM) is a bicarbonate-based green vegetables and fruits buffering system which is highly effective in countering states of acidosis in animals.

The retail cost of pHorse Power is: $89.00 for 453 grams or 1 lb.

To order call: 760-751-8321

pHorse Power(TM) can also be used for all other animals including cats and dogs to bolster their alkaline buffering system. Put 1 scoop or 3 grams in your animals food or water.

In summary:

The horses bicarbonate supply is used up and the body's natural buffer systems are stretched to their utmost in the racehorse in work. Acidosis may be more correctly called depleted base (alkaline) reserve. The bicarbonate and other buffer systems have a reduced ability to neutralize the acids - remember that bases (alkaline) are required to balance acids.

Remember that acidosis may not be the classical "tying-up" so familiar to most trainers; rather it may show up as a poor finish, the horse going sour, or the loss of the will to win is an indication of latent tissue acidosis.

Daily supplementation with pHorse Power(TM) will bolster your horses body buffering system, allowing it to cope more successfully with "acidosis" by adding to the alkaline reserve.