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Keeping the Horse Replenished – Equine Electrolytes

Posted by Dr. Amy Gill on Thursday, August 11, 2011 Under: Nutrition Tips & Advice

With summer in full swing, the topic of equine electrolytes becomes very relevant. Electrolytes are mineral salts that create the electrical current in the horse and are necessary for a variety of biological processes, including:

  • Muscular contraction
  • Water balance
  • Regular heartbeat

As the summer gets hotter you find yourself with a sweaty horse, but a quick hose down is not all he needs after a good workout. Horse sweat is hypertonic, meaning it contains more mineral salts or electrolytes than water. If electrolytes are depleted from the horse and not quickly replenished, numerous health problems can occur, such as:

  • Dehydration
  • Diarrhea
  • Inability to contract and relax muscles
  • Cramping
  • Irregular heartbeat

While a horse’s electrolyte level needs to be maintained all year round, the summer becomes most critical due an increase in sweating. The most important electrolytes to consider when evaluating an electrolyte product or your horse’s electrolyte level are:

  • Chloride
  • Sodium
  • Potassium
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium

Substances like dextrose and sucrose are sugars, not mineral salts and therefore should not be incorporated into an electrolyte mixture except in very small amounts which helps with the absorption of minerals into the blood stream.

To prevent dehydration and electrolyte depletion in your horse during the summer time (and anytime of the year!), be sure to have plain white salt and fresh water available at all times when the horse is stables and turned out. You can add a couple of tablespoons of salt to the feed, but do not add salt or electrolyte mixture to the water as horses will not drink salty water. Paste electrolyte products that are formulated with the correct concentration can be used if necessary. If your horse is severely depleted, a veterinarian should administer intravenous fluids at once.

We will discuss more about electrolytes later on, so stay tuned!

In : Nutrition Tips & Advice 

Tags: "summer nutrition" "electrolytes" 

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