Stay Hydrated, San Diego
Water. It’s an essential part of life and as the summer heats up, it becomes more and more important to keep our horses hydrated. Water plays a critical role in a horse’s digestion, thermoregulation, and other functions. Think about it, just like humans, horses sweat and as it evaporates, it cools down their skin and keeps their core body temperature at a safe level. This sweat is made up of water, sodium, and other important nutrients they need for survival. If they lose too much of that, it can be dangerous! The average sized horse will require between 8 and 10 gallons of water a day. Factors such as atmospheric temperature, activity, pregnancy or lactation, and age can add to this daily intake depending on a horse’s unique health, so always consult with your veterinarian on water intake needs.
Signs of dehydration and what to do if you suspect your horse is dehydrated:
There are a few symptoms you can keep an eye out for that might indicate your horse is dehydrated:
- Elevated heart rate
- Sluggish activity
- Changes in gum color
- Muscle spasms or unexplained pain
- Less skin elasticity
- You can perform the pinch test which entails pinching the skin along their neck and timing how long it takes for it to retract back. Normal elasticity should take less than two seconds. Anything longer than two seconds should raise concern.
- Loss of a normally glossy coat
- Fatigue or depression
If a horse halts their drinking patterns completely, their organs will begin to shut down within three to four days which can cause irreversible damage. The first step is to offer them fresh water. If they choose not to drink, notify your vet. He or she will likely run some blood tests to confirm a lack of water content in tissue cells. Treatment can be as simple as an electrolyte solution administered orally or intravenous fluids.
How to promote healthy water intake:
Horses are like us – they will drink water when they want to and don't drink water when they don’t want to. It’s key to help them want to drink water – especially in summer months. To promote their desire to drink water regularly, here are a few tips:
- Provide easy access to fresh and clean water at all times
- Soaking high-quality hay in water prior to feeding
- Place salt blocks in paddocks or stalls
- Add loose salt as a dressing on grain
- When traveling to a show, bring some home from water
- This is great to have on hand if there are any unexpected stops that come up along the way or if your picky horse doesn’t like the water at the show grounds.
With a hydrated horse, it's easy to enjoy these summer months. Happy trails!