Lactic Acid Build-Up in Dogs

By PetMD Editorial on Aug. 20, 2008

Lactic Acidosis in Dogs

Lactic acid is a chemical produced by the muscles during normal physical activity, and which is elevated during exercise in order to fuel the body and maintain energy. In a normal functioning body, the liver and kidneys maintain the balance between lactic acid production and its removal from the body. When the body is not functioning at normal capacity and lactic acid is not being adequately removed, a condition called lactic acidosis can occur.

Lactic acidosis refers to the abnormal build-up of lactic acid in the body. This abnormal build-up can affect the cardiac system, including the heart and eventually all organ systems in the body. The recommended treatment will be dependent upon the underlying medical condition that is causing the lactic acid to build-up.

Symptoms and Types

Common symptoms can include heavy breathing, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Persistent lactic acid in the body will affect heart function and output and can have a tremendous impact on organ function. Most signs of lactic acidosis refer to the underlying cause of the medical condition and not the actual condition.


One of the primary causes of lactic acidosis is an insufficient amount of oxygen in the blood, or poor use of oxygen by the body. Young dogs are at a higher risk for developing the condition, and they are also more likely to go into traumatic shock as a result of having it. Older animals are more likely to develop kidney (renal) failure, heart failure, liver disease, cancer, anemia, or vascular disorders.


Your veterinarian's primary objective will be to determine what is causing the lactic acid build-up in the body. A series of blood tests will used to locate the cause of the condition, as well as to determine what the treatment will be.


Lactic acidosis is often severe, requiring aggressive therapy. Prescribed treatment by your veterinarian will be dependent upon the location of the underlying medical cause. The ability of your dog's body to clear lactis acid will be a reasonable indicator of the therapy's success, and will determine your dog's ability to survive and recover from the condition.

Living and Management

To increase the odds of a healthy recovery, it is important to observe your dog's ongoing response to treatment. There are some potential complications to lactic acidosis, including the development of multiple organ failure, and a higher mortality rate.

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