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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2013

Physiological and behavioral responses to different watering intervals in lactating camels (Camelus dromedarius)

Bekele, Tafesse; Olsson, Kerstin; Olsson, Ulf; Dahlborn, Kristina


During drought periods camels are watered at long intervals, but effects on body fluid homeostasis of lactating camels are not known. It was hypothesized that camels store water after drinking and minimize water losses by diurnal variation in body temperature, changes in behavior, and release of vasopressin. The aim was to find a sustainable watering interval for lactating camels. Seven lactating camels were studied in a cross-over trial in which they were watered once daily (W1), every fourth day (W4), every eighth day (W8), or after 16 days (W16) with a 5-day interval between treatments. When offered water every fourth or eighth days, the camels drank sufficient amounts to cover their needs for subsequent days, but after 16 days of dehydration they did not drink enough to compensate the body weight loss. Rectal temperature fell at night and the camels searched shade during daytime minimizing evaporative fluid losses. Plasma osmolality and sodium concentration were elevated after 4 days of water deprivation and plasma protein and vasopressin concentrations after 8 days. Milk production decreased during the last week of W16. Plasma aldosterone concentration was elevated upon rehydration after W16, indicating sodium deficiency. In conclusion, lactating camels stored water after drinking and reduced water losses by staying in shade, keeping body temperature low, and releasing plasma vasopressin. However, serious dehydration was observed during W8, and after 16 days of water deprivation recovery took a long time. A watering interval between 4 and 7 days seems advisable under similar environmental conditions.


aldosterone; body weight; dehydration; osmolality; vasopressin

Published in

AJP - Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology
2013, Volume: 305, number: 6, pages: R639-R646