Dehydration in horses is deadly, and sometimes it can be difficult to know if your horse is drinking enough, particularly if your yard uses automatic water bowls. Monitoring your horse’s water intake is very important but can also very tricky to determine.
Sometimes it isn’t just about how much your horse drinks. Many horses suffer from an electrolyte deficiency which is highly responsible for dehydration.
As you are aware, there are many types of readily available sports drinks available for human consumption to help with electrolyte replenishment such as Gatorade and Powerade. One thing you may be wondering is whether you could provide these types of drinks to help your horse.
So, can horses drink Gatorade? There is no real harm in horses drinking Gatorade, however, it is likely to not have much effect on them. Horses need electrolytes in much bigger doses than what Gatorade provides. It is not a particularly healthy drink, so there is no real need to provide this to your horse.
Keep reading to learn more about Gatorade and other electrolyte drinks that you might be wondering about. We’ll also walk you through salt blocks vs horse electrolytes and which one is best to provide to your horse.
Is Gatorade safe for horses?
Gatorade is too weak for horses and will not provide them with the electrolyte levels their body needs. This isn’t a product that is considered to be too harmful to horses unless this was all you were providing them to drink.
Horse sweat consists of 10 times the potassium that is found in human sweat and 3 times the sodium and chloride levels. With that in mind, you can see why Gatorade is helpful to humans, but not so much to horses.
Gatorade is a pretty unhealthy drink all in all for both humans and animals. It has an extremely high sugar content and is made up of many unnatural colorings.
If you are trying to watch your horse’s weight then Gatorade is not a good addition to your horse’s liquid intake. This isn’t strictly directed at Gatorade, however, as most of the sports drinks on the market are equally as bad in content (which you’ll find out later in this article).
Based on this information, it is clear to see why it is pretty pointless in giving Gatorade to your horse. The electrolyte quantities are nowhere near enough to contribute towards your horse’s nutrition or health and could have some negative effects such as obesity.
There are many products of this kind on the market specifically designed for horses and these will provide your equine friend with exactly what they need in the right quantities which we will discuss in some more detail later.
Can horses drink Powerade?
Unfortunately, Powerade is exactly the same as Gatorade. It does not provide your horse with enough electrolytes to make much of a difference.
It is not considered harmful to horses and it is true to say that it will most definitely help with encouraging your horse to drink a bit more water since Powerade is known to be pretty tasty to horses.
In the same way as Gatorade, Powerade is full of artificial sweeteners and preservatives that we would consider not to be particularly healthy for your horse.
It is somewhat unnecessary and very fattening for horses to drink too much of. It is always best to stick to products of this nature that are specially designed for horses which will ensure your horse receives the correct quantities.
Can horses drink Pedialyte?
Pedialyte falls into line with most other sports drinks and will not work well for a horse that needs an electrolyte boost since it does not provide the right amount of potassium, sodium, or chloride. The potassium levels in this drink are actually very low, even for humans.
We must remember that Pedialyte is not a health drink as such as contains 9 grams of sugar which is pretty high. It is not likely to help with your horse’s dehydration but could contribute towards obesity thanks to the sugar content.
What is the best electrolyte for horses?
Many types of electrolytes can be bought specifically for use with horses. You will find that most of these include a good mix of electrolytes (potassium, sodium and chloride) and are formulated in the correct quantities.
It is always best to provide your horse electrolytes that can be fed on a daily basis rather than introducing it in bigger doses right before an event such as a competition or show. An overload of electrolytes is not dangerous for your horse however, it could result in excessive drinking and very wet bedding.
Electrolytes can be bought in many different forms and the type you choose will usually depend on your personal preference. Some common types to look for are:
Many owners believe that buying in a syringe or paste form is the best option (such as these syringes). This is mostly due to the fact that other forms are put directly into your horse’s feed which can often end up all over the stable floor meaning your horse has not received the correct dosage.
It is true to say that the majority of electrolytes for horses are sold in a powder or liquid form. These types of supplements in general can sometimes be tricky to feed to certain types of horses especially for those equines that are fussy eaters.
Fortunately, electrolytes taste pretty good and you will find that most horses buy into this. It can often be a helpful tool to encourage horses that do not eat up all of their feed.
Horse electrolytes vs salt – which is better?
There are many owners that choose to feed their horse salt in order to combat an electrolyte imbalance. We can understand why since salt contains high levels of both sodium and chloride which can be highly beneficial.
In complete contrast, others believe that you should not feed your horse too much salt and buying an electrolyte that has been specially formulated for horses is the only way to curing an imbalance and ensuring your horse gets exactly what they need.
Some even believe that electrolytes and salt are the same things, however, it is true to say although they are similar in many ways there are also some clear differences.
Please find below a comparison table that may help you to decide what would be best for your horse in this instance:
|Come ready-made in the correct quantities||Deciding how much salt to feed can be confusing|
|Mixes well into feeds and can also be bought in a syringe form||Salt does not mix into feeds well and may get left at the bottom of the bucket uneaten|
|Generally quite tasty and horses seem to quite like the taste of the formula||Fussy equines are not likely to want to eat their feeds if you have added salt into the mix|
|Electrolytes are generally quite safe even in large doses and overdosing is unlikely||Extra salt can cause or worsen gastric ulcers|
|Providing a complete balanced electrolyte is ideal for horses in heavy training to provide them with everything they need||For horses in more than light work such as eventers, salt alone is unlikely to replace the losses from training|
As you can see, there are some major benefits to providing electrolytes to your horse particularly if they are in heavy, strenuous work. Salt can be somewhat beneficial to your horse however if you are dealing with a deficiency, electrolytes are the way forward.
Signs of electrolyte imbalance in horses
A horse’s body has a unique way of showing us when something is wrong. It is true to say that not all illnesses show symptoms, but when it comes to dehydration and deficiencies you can be sure there will be some noticeable signs present.
If you are an owner that knows your horse very well it is usually pretty easy to identify when there is a problem. You may notice this when riding your horse. They may not seem like themselves. Or maybe you noticed something wasn’t quite right when you walked them out to the field.
Here are some significant signs to look out for if you feel like your horse may have an electrolyte imbalance:
- Your horse seems lethargic or fatigued
- Muscle weakness
- Reduced feed and water intake
- Weight loss (due to not eating enough)
- Reduced sweating
- Compromised performance
If you believe your horse is suffering from any of these symptoms there is a simple way to check if an imbalance is present depending on how severe that imbalance is. All you will need to do is pinch some skin at the point of shoulder.
With horses that do not have an electrolyte imbalance, you will notice the pinched skin return to normal (flat) pretty quickly within a second or two. If the skin takes longer than 4 seconds to snap back it is likely your horse has an electrolyte imbalance and is severely dehydrated.
If you are unsure, then it is always best to seek the advice of a qualified vet to be 100% sure you are dealing with a deficiency rather than something else unrelated. If in doubt, always shout.
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