Horse Hydration 101 – We Answer Frequently Asked Questions

Water is a necessity for survival as it is involved in thermoregulation, nutrition, and digestion. Therefore, all living organisms need access to safe drinking water.

Since horses aren’t common pets, horse owners are often intrigued or uncertain about the drinking needs of their equine friends.

Below, we answer some of the frequently asked questions about horse hydration.

How Long Can A Horse Go Without Drinking Water?

Although horses don’t require water as frequently as some other animals, complete dehydration can lead to weakness and death. Simply put, your horse should be drinking water every day.

If a horse hasn’t touched a single drop of water for two days, it’s time to seek veterinary help. After three to four days of dehydration, the animal’s organs start shutting down, leading to irreversible damage.

With that in mind, some external factors also determine a horse’s water needs. For instance, if the horse is grazing on pasture – with a high water content – it will not drink a lot of extra water. On the other hand, a horse that mainly feeds on dry stuff will have higher water needs.

Horses also have a natural ability to produce metabolic water when their bodies break down fats, carbs, and proteins. Although it’s not an excessive amount of water, it contributes to the horse’s daily water needs.

Since you know your horse best, keeping all these things in consideration will help you determine the equine’s water demands.

How To Check For Dehydration In Horses?

If you suspect your horse might be dehydrated, there are a few ways to confirm this.

  • Skin Pinch Test: Pinch your horse’s skin in the shoulder or neck region. If it’s elevated for longer than a few seconds, your horse might be dehydrated.
    • Gums: If the horse’s gums are red or look dry, it might be dehydrated. Another test for this is the capillary refill. Put your finger on the gum area over the teeth and press it gently. It will go pale. When you release, the coloration should go back to normal in about 5 seconds. If this doesn’t happen, dehydration is likely.
  • Eyes: A horse with glazed or dull eyes might not be getting enough water.

Is It Possible For Horses To Drink Too Much Water?

Yes, horses can drink excessive amounts of water, especially if they’re suffering from Cushing’s disease or related ailments. These conditions lead to polydipsia, which refers to a rise in water demand.

Due to high water intake, there will be additional stress on the equine’s kidneys since they have to work harder to dilute bodily electrolytes. As a result, the horse’s body might not do a great job of temperature regulation.

If your horse is healthy, it will not drink more than needed. Do note that water demand for each horse varies depending on their body weight and size. Additionally, weather conditions also determine a horse’s water demand.

Is It Possible To Give A Horse Too Many Electrolytes?

If you follow the recommended amounts specified by the manufacturers, you’ll never have a case where you give your horse too many electrolytes. However, if you deviate from the recommended dose, excessive electrolyte administration is possible.

Here are some common signs of it:

  • Loose droppings
  • Wet bed
  • Excessive water demand (over four buckets a day)
  • Refusing to feed

If a horse has gastric ulcers, ordinary electrolytes might cause pain, appetite suppression, lower thirst, and discomfort. Owing to this, the previous ulcers might get worse, and new ones may develop.

For such horses, you should feed them fat-coated electrolytes. These electrolytes are digested in the small intestine by lipases instead of in the stomach.

How Can I Make My Horse Drink Water?

Often, people overlook the importance of providing clean drinking water for pets, which later becomes a health concern for the animals.

The best way to make your horse drink water is to provide clean water. Check the bucket, scrub it to remove any dirt, and refill it if it gets dirty again. Plus, provide salt to your horse through salt blocks. Or, you can feed it a salt supplement or sprinkle salt on the feed.

An appropriate sodium balance is important for the horse to have a proper equilibrium and thirst response.

Why Is My Horse Fussy About Water Sources?

The equine sense of taste and smell is very strong. Therefore, horses often refuse to drink or eat things that don’t smell or taste good. Water from different sources has varying pH and TDS levels (total dissolved solids).

Additionally, water hardness has an impact on palatability, rendering the water unpleasant for a horse. If your equine friend refuses to drink water during traveling, you should take water from home to prevent dehydration on the way.

Water Is Not To Be Taken Lightly

To sum up, horses need water daily. The longest a horse can go without water is around 48 hours, and after that, its body will start experiencing organ shutdown and tissue damage.

So, you should be considerate about your horse’s water requirements for its optimum health and wellness.





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