We’re nearing the end of the dog days of summer. You know the ones — they’re hot, sweaty and enough to make all of us parched. That includes our horses! Do you know how to check your horse’s hydration?
Sweating is the process horses use to cool themselves when their body temperature rises. When a horse sweats they lose both minerals and water. Dehydration occurs when a horse doesn’t have enough water in their body to carry out normal functions. This happens when fluid losses exceed fluid intake. Dehydration will cause a horse’s body to begin to shut down and also decrease the thirst response so a horse stops drinking. If you suspect your horse may be dehydrated there are two simple tests you can perform. It is a good idea to practice these tests when you know your horse is hydrated so you can see what their normal response looks like.
The first test you can do to check if your horse is dehydrated is the skin-pinch test. Pinch the skin near the point of the shoulder. If the skin snaps back quickly your horse is sufficiently hydrated. If it takes the skin two to four seconds to snap back, your horse is moderately dehydrated. If it takes longer than four seconds for the skin to snap back, your horse is severely dehydrated.
Capillary refill time (CRT)
Along with the skin-pinch test your horse’s dehydration can be accessed by checking the capillary refill time (CRT). Your horse’s gums should be pink and moist. Press a finger or thumb to the upper gum for a second or two. When you remove your finger the pressure point will be a lighter color. If color returns to the spot within one to two seconds, your horse is properly hydrated. If it takes longer than two seconds for the color to return, your horse is likely dehydrated.
A well-balanced electrolyte will lower the risk of dehydration, replenish lost minerals, and trigger the thirst response.
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