Clinical use of plasma lactate concentration. Part 2: Prognostic and diagnostic utility and the clinical management of hyperlactatemia

J Vet Emerg Crit Care (San Antonio). 2018 Mar;28(2):106-121. doi: 10.1111/vec.12706.


Objective: To review the current literature pertaining to the use of lactate as a prognostic indicator and therapeutic guide, the utility of measuring lactate concentrations in body fluids other than blood or plasma, and the clinical management of hyperlactatemia in dogs, cats, and horses.

Data sources: Articles were retrieved without date restrictions primarily via PubMed, Scopus, and CAB Abstracts as well as by manual selection.

Human and veterinary data synthesis: Increased plasma lactate concentrations are associated with increased morbidity and mortality. In populations with high mortality, hyperlactatemia is moderately predictive in identifying nonsurvivors. Importantly, eulactatemia predicts survival better than hyperlactatemia predicts death. Consecutive lactate measurements and calculated relative measures appear to outperform single measurements. The use of lactate as a therapeutic guide has shown promising results in people but is relatively uninvestigated in veterinary species. Increased lactate concentrations in body fluids other than blood should raise the index of suspicion for septic or malignant processes. Management of hyperlactatemia should target the underlying cause.

Conclusion: Lactate is a valuable triage and risk stratification tool that can be used to separate patients into higher and lower risk categories. The utility of lactate concentration as a therapeutic target and the measurement of lactate in body fluids shows promise but requires further research.

Keywords: cat; dog; effusion; horse; hyperlactatemia; lactate; lactic acidosis; mortality; prognosis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers
  • Humans
  • Hyperlactatemia / blood
  • Hyperlactatemia / veterinary*
  • Lactic Acid / blood*
  • Species Specificity


  • Biomarkers
  • Lactic Acid