Salt, electrolytes and gastric ulcers

The use of electrolytes in relation to gastric ulcers has been mooted since a study in endurance horses showed those receiving a concentrated electrolyte paste once per hour for eight hours showed higher rate of gastric lesions than those receiving a placebo.  Extreme use such as this is not routinely recommended.  

It is necessary to replenish lost salt and electrolytes after sweating, because sweat contains both water and electrolytes; sweating cools the horse by the process of the evaporation of water from the skin, but in losing water the horse also loses electrolytes, which must then be replenished through the diet.

Ensuring a sound base of forage in the diet is essential – forages themselves are a source of electrolytes, and they also create a reservoir of water bound with the fibre in the hindgut that acts as a fluid reservoir when sweating.

Supplementary electrolyte requirements are highly individual, dependent on the duration and intensity of the workload, the core ration as well as the environmental conditions. 

Electrolyte tips:

–          Maximise forage intakes where possible.  If travelling or on restricted forage diets consider offering forage in a  way that slows consumption such as double walled hay nets or the use of a forage block.

–          Consider providing salt blocks at home;

–          Always follow the supplement manufacturer’s recommendations for use

–          Always offer fresh water when administering electrolytes

–          Never administer electrolytes on their own into an empty stomach – try mixing them with some type of fibre – e.g. a small amount of alfalfa

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