The quantitative disposition of an intragastrically administered glucose load was studied in eight conscious 18-h fasted dogs using isotopic and arteriovenous (A-V) techniques. During the control period, the gut utilized 25% of the basal net hepatic glucose output (2.8 +/- 0.2 mg.kg-1.min-1). After glucose ingestion, 80% of the load was absorbed as glucose, 11% was converted across the gut to lactate and alanine, and 4% was oxidized to CO2. Two percent of the load remained in the gut 4 h after glucose administration and 3% was unaccounted for. During the absorptive period, net hepatic glucose balance (NHGB) varied considerably (mean range = output of 1.8 to uptake of 9.1 mg.kg-1.min-1), while endogenous hepatic glucose production (Ra hp) showed a consistent 80% suppression. The total net hepatic glucose uptake during the absorptive period (150 +/- 10 min) accounted for the disposal of 24 +/- 10% of the ingested load, and the amount of glucose escaping the splanchnic bed was 40 +/- 3%. Overall NHGB correlated positively with basal arterial glucose and insulin levels and negatively with basal arterial glycerol and FFA and with peak absorptive arterial glucose and insulin levels. These data suggest that the hepatic response to an ingested glucose load depends in part on the degree of metabolic fast of the animal at the time of glucose ingestion; the latter may be a major determinant of the roles played by the tissues in glucose disposal.