The Simple Truth About Electrolytes and Toxicity
By Kelly Sheehan
Here at Horse Tack Co. we know that hydration is a critical component of performance, as well as digestion and temperature regulation. While many riders worry about dehydration in horses, particularly in the summer months, many people don’t realize that electrolytes themselves can be a problem for horses in specific circumstances. While among the most common horse supplements used, if water is limited while electrolytes are provided, the body cannot flush any excess electrolytes. This can lead to electrolyte poisoning, or salt toxicity, in horses.
The Good News
The good news is that, in most situations, the body can flush any electrolytes that may be unnecessary. While over extended periods of time this can cause stress on the kidneys to filter excess sodium, most horses will simply drink more water and dilute the extra electrolytes. This dilution is then passed out of the body in urine. It’s an efficient method for dealing with any unnecessary supplements. Oversupplementing with electrolytes an unusual scenario, given that recommendations from the manufacturer are followed and the horse has free access to water. For this reason, it is critical to ensure that a horse has enough water available, ideally free choice, and that the horse will drink water as necessary. Most horses will self-regulate to meet their water intake needs, increasing based on humidity and temperature levels. On average, horses drink between 5 and 10 gallons of water a day, with up to twice that when temperature increases. If a horse is known to be picky about water sources, or taste, bringing your own water to a facility or using a product that masks the taste and makes the water taste more familiar, such as HorseQuencher, should be considered.
Some Bad (but Preventative) Concerns
That said, there are some potentially dangerous situations to be aware of. If a horse is dehydrated already and then electrolytes are provided- particularly without available water- additional dehydration can occur. Once this process begins, the horse may show signs of salt toxicity.
Other issues if electrolytes are overfed include ulcers in mouth and stomach tissue. To avoid these concerns, electrolytes should not be given on an empty stomach and should be mixed with a stomach buffer when given or, if providing electrolytes with an oral syringe, the mouth should be rinsed after dosing.
The Ugly Truth About Salt Toxicity
Signs of salt toxicity can include salivation, increased thirst, muscle tremors, diarrhea, irregular heartbeat, abdominal pain, and symptoms related to the central nervous system including seizures, partial paralysis, colic, and even blindness. These symptoms may also present with aggressive behavior at times. Veterinary care should be obtained as quickly as possible for appropriate recommendations for the specific scenario. Additional electrolytes should immediately be removed from the horse’s grain or water. Fresh water should be given at frequent intervals, but in small amounts to reduce the likelihood of aggravating the symptoms of the condition. The mortality rate of salt toxicity is potentially higher than 50%, regardless of treatment across animals (swine, cattle, and horses can all be impacted by salt toxicity.)
Overall, electrolytes paired with Horse Quencher can be a useful tool to help horses stay hydrated and in peak condition. To purchase or to ask questions- visit Horse Tack Co. and love your ride! Don’t forget to use the promo code “LoveTheRide” upon checkout to receive 15% off your Horse Quencher and the rest of your order, all-the-time and anytime!