Dear SmartPak: Is it appropriate to administer electrolytes to a slightly dehydrated horse?

Dr. Lydia Gray answers a question about how to best maintain a proper fluid and electrolyte balance in your horse.

From the SmartPak Blog:

Is it always appropriate to administer electrolytes to a slightly dehydrated horse? I say that if the horse has become dehydrated from not drinking (vs. sweating) then electrolytes by paste or feed aren’t a good idea. Don’t the electrolytes need appropriate amounts of water within the body to “dissolve”? My counterparts say that the horse will naturally drink more (or start drinking) in response to the salt in the electrolytes and voila, hydrated horse.”

Dr. Gray’s response:

Regulating the amount of water and electrolytes in the body is a complicated process, and with such an important event riding on my answer, I turned to my favorite resource, The Veterinary Clinics of North America Equine Practice, for help. The April 1998 issue entitled “Fluids and Electrolytes in Athletic Horses” had the answer to your question.

Turns out: you’re both right! (don’t you hate when that happens?) The idea behind giving slightly dehydrated horses electrolyte paste is to stimulate thirst and encourage them to drink, replacing fluid lost in sweating during exercise and/or hot temperatures. And while some research has shown that giving horses electrolyte paste can cause them to drink more water than horses NOT given electrolyte paste, there are horses who continue to refuse to drink and therefore wind up MORE dehydrated. Here’s what happens when you give a horse electrolyte paste:

Read the rest of Dr. Gray’s answer here.

Go SmartPak, and Go Riding!


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