Why electrolytes are vital for healthy horses – and what’s on the market?

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  • Are you confused about the best electrolytes for horses, why they are important and how best to ensure your horse has the right levels? Or are you look3ing for the best electrolyte product for your horse? Then we are here to help…

    What are electrolytes?

    Electrolytes are minerals dissolved in the blood and tissues of the body, which carry a positive or negative charge and can bind with another ion to make a ‘salt’. They help to preserve the correct balance of fluids in the body’s cells and are involved in muscle function and the processing of wastes. Deficiencies cause dehydration, impaired performance and may exacerbate clinical problems such as azoturia.

    The main electrolytes are:

    • Sodium (Na+)
    • Chloride (Cl)
    • Potassium (K+)
    • Magnesium (Mg2+)
    • Calcium (Ca2+)

    Horses lose electrolytes daily through sweating, in urine and faeces. These losses can normally be replaced in the diet. Horses relies on sweating to control body temperature during exercise and it is generally accepted that 90% of a horse’s weight loss after exercise is due to sweating. It is important that this weight loss is monitored and the fluid and electrolyte losses replaced, otherwise poor performance will result.

    During periods of exertion such as competition and training, electrolyte losses can be considerable, particularly during hot weather. Even under normal exercise conditions, a 500kg horse could lose 10 litres of sweat during two hours of exercise.

    Signs of electrolyte deficiency in horses include:

    • Dull coat
    • Sunken eyes
    • Depression
    • Listlessness
    • Poor performance
    • Dark urine

    How to provide electrolytes

    The horse’s body cannot retain water without the presence of electrolytes, so simply offering water after exercise will not rehydrate your horse. Electrolytes should be added to either the water or the feed.

    Adding electrolytes to water to form an isotonic solution (a solution that contain the same electrolyte concentrations as that of the body fluids) will ensure that both fluid and electrolyte losses are replenished and the horse becomes quickly rehydrated. However, after prolonged sweating it will take several days of electrolyte supplementation to completely replenish losses.

    Alternatively, if your horse is a poor drinker or there is no opportunity to replace fluid losses during the competition, electrolytes may be fed alongside a small amount of concentrate feed. Electrolyte pastes are also available. However, a large single dose can cause the horse to absorb water from the blood vessels surrounding the gut and actually worsen the effects of dehydration in the short term.

    Sodium chloride (table salt) can be made available for the horse ad lib in the form of a salt lick, but intake should be monitored, particularly in hot weather, as evidence has shown horses do not naturally self regulate their intake. Alternatively feeding a tablespoon of table salt daily will ensure you horse receives sufficient sodium chloride.

    Giving electrolytes to competition horses

    The electrolytes most commonly used in supplements – sodium chloride, calcium carbonate and potassium chloride – are not included in the FEI clean sport prohibited substances list. Neither are other common ingredients, such as sodium bicarbonate or glucose. Simple electrolyte supplements should, therefore, be safe for use in competition horses. However, it is advisable to check the label of any supplement or ask the manufacturer. For the full list of banned substances visit feicleansport.org

    Electrolytes for horses: what are your options?

    Here is a selection of the best electrolytes for horses on the market…

    NB: Cost per day has been calculated using the maintenance measure for a 500kg horse in light work (where there was variation) and the RRP of the smallest available tub. Some products require you to feed more with a higher workload, which will increase the cost per daily measure, while buying a larger tub will likely decrease it – these costs per day are a guide only.

    Equine America best horse electrolytes

    Equine America Apple Lytes

    Form: Powder | Sizes: 2.5kg, 10kg | RRP: £19.50 for 2.5kg | Daily measure: 30g | Cost per day: 23p |

    Carefully formulated to replace the key electrolytes and encourage drinking to help prevent dehydration. They are highly palatable and should be mixed in feed. Also available as a syringe paste.

    View Equine America Apple Lytes at viovet.co.uk
    View Equine America Apple Lytes at amazon.co.uk
    View Equine America Apple Lytes at equine-america.co.uk

    Equine Products best horse electrolytes

    Equine Products UK Everyday Electrolyte

    Form: Powder | Sizes: 1kg, 20kg | RRP: £10.73 | Daily measure: 50g | Cost per day: 54p |

    Formulated for long-term daily use, this product assists with the movement of glucose to cells for energy metabolism as well as replacing electrolytes.

    View Equine Products UK Everyday Electrolyte at viovet.co.uk

    NAF best horse electrolytes

    NAF Electro Salts

    Form: Powder | Sizes: 1kg, 4kg, 10kg | RRP: £19.95 for 1kg | Daily measure: 30g | Cost per day: 60p |

    Electro Salts is a concentrated combination of the essential plasma salts combined with dextrose to aid efficient absorption. It should be fed following exertion, after heavy sweating or during periods of very hot weather, and can be given in the feed or dissolved in water.

    View NAF Electro Salts at viovet.co.uk
    View NAF Electro Salts at amazon.co.uk

    Dodson & Horrell best horse electrolytes

    Dodson & Horrell Electrolytes

    Form: Powder | Sizes: 2kg, 5kg | RRP: £16.95 for 2kg | Daily measure: 60g | Cost per day: 51p |

    These balanced and flavoured electrolytes are easy to incorporate into an existing diet on days when a little extra replenishment is needed for a better recovery.

    View Dodson & Horrell Electrolytes at viovet.co.uk
    View Dodson & Horrell Electrolytes at amazon.co.uk

    Science Supplements best horse electrolytes

    Science Supplements Complete Electrolytes

    Form: Powder | Sizes: 2kg | RRP: £36.99 | Daily measure: 28g | Cost per day: 52p |

    This palatable and balanced electrolyte is gentle on the stomach and uses microencapsulation technology to ensure it reaches the small intestine, where electrolyte uptake is optimal, before dissolving. Also available as a syringe paste.

    View Science Supplements Complete Electrolytes at viovet.co.uk
    View Science Supplements Complete Electrolytes at amazon.co.uk

    TopSpec best horse electrolytes

    TopSpec Electrolytes

    Form: Powder | Sizes: 1.5kg, 3kg, 9kg, 20kg | RRP: £19.50 for 1.5kg | Daily measure: 100g | Cost per day: £1.30 |

    This high-salt formula is flavoured with wild fruit berries and should be fed in addition to any salt already in the diet. It’s recommended that you divide the daily amount equally between feeds, and that it’s used for at least two days after sweating.

    View TopSpec Electrolytes at viovet.co.uk
    View TopSpec Electrolytes at amazon.co.uk

    Nettex Equine Electrolyte Maintenance Liquid

    Nettex Equine Electrolyte Maintenance Liquid

    Form: Powder | Sizes: 1l | RRP: £11.99 | Daily measure: 50ml | Cost per day: 60p |

    This is rapidly absorbed to replace vital salts required for recovery and maintaining stamina. The peppermint-flavoured powder can be added to water or feed after sweating, during hot weather, exercise or in times of stress.

    View Nettex Equine Electrolyte Maintenance Liquid at viovet.co.uk
    View Nettex Equine Electrolyte Maintenance Liquid at amazon.co.uk

    Horse First best horse electrolytes

    Horse First Heavy Sweat

    Form: Powder | Sizes: 1kg, 3kg, 10kg | RRP: £11.50 for 1kg | Daily measure: 50g | Cost per day: 58p |

    This balanced electrolyte supplement is free from glucose and fillers. Also available as a syringe paste.

    View Horse First Heavy Sweat at viovet.co.uk
    View Horse First Heavy Sweat at amazon.co.uk

    Audevard Vetidral best horse electrolytes

    Audevard Vetidral

    Form: Powder | Sizes: 1.5kg, 5kg | RRP: £37.98 for 1.5kg | Daily measure: 50g | Cost per day: £1.27 |

    This supplement contains electrolytes in proportions identical to those found in sweat as well as prebiotics to stimulate electrolyte replacement and absorption. Also available as a liquid or syringe.

    View Audeard Vetidral at amazon.co.uk

    Aviform best horse electrolytes

    Aviform Electroform EQ Equine Electrolytes

    Form: Powder | Sizes: 1kg pouch, 1.5kg tub | RRP: £15.95 for 1kg | Daily measure: 35g | Cost per day: 56p |

    This fast-acting electrolyte contains the optimum ratios of sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium, calcium, MSM, glucose and vitamin C. It’s described as easy to use and palatable, and can be administered in water or feed.

    View Aviform Electroform EQ Equine Electrolytes at amazon.co.uk

    Baileys best horse electrolytes

    Baileys Aqua-Aide

    Form: Powder | Sizes: 2kg, 9kg | RRP: £14.50 for 2kg | Daily measure: 30g | Cost per day: 22p |

    This provides the optimum balance of sodium, potassium, chloride, magnesium and calcium. It also contains dextrose for palatability and improved absorption. It can be given in water or wet feed, beet or chaff, whenever your horse sweats.

    View Baileys Aqua-Aide at ebay.co.uk
    View Baileys Aqua-Aide at amazon.co.uk

    Cavalor best horse electrolytes

    Cavalor Electrolyte Balance

    Form: Powder | Sizes: 800g, 5kg | RRP: £29 for 800g | Daily measure: 45g | Cost per day: £1.63 |

    This supplement contains the vital salts as well as some important B vitamins. It also includes essential amino acids and sugars that provide energy and promote the absorption of electrolytes. It can be given in a feed or dissolved in drinking water right after a period of sweating.

    View Cavalor Electrolyte Balance at viovet.co.uk
    View Cavalor Electrolyte Balance at amazon.co.uk

    Feedmark best horse electrolytes

    Feedmark Replenish

    Form: Powder | Sizes: 1.5kg, 3kg, 6kg | RRP: £34.99 for 1.5kg | Daily measure: 50g | Cost per day: £1.17 |

    This balanced blend of the essential electrolytes will help keep competition horses performing at their best by maintaining correct muscle and nerve function for optimum health.

    View Feedmark Replenish at ebay.co.uk

    Global Herbs Herbal Electrolyte

    Global Herbs Herbal Electrolyte

    Form: Powder | Sizes: 1kg | RRP: £21 | Daily measure: 50g | Cost per day: £1.05 |

    This all-natural electrolyte combines salt replacements with a selection of immunity herbs. It aids muscle recovery and hydration by replacing lost body salts.

    View Global Herbs Herbal Electrolyte at globalherbs.co.uk
    View Global Herbs Herbal Electrolyte at equus.co.uk
    View Global Herbs Herbal Electrolyte at viovet.co.uk

    Horse Health best horse electrolytes

    Horse Health Hydro Health

    Form: Liquid | Sizes: 1l, 4l | RRP: £10.50 for 1l | Daily measure: 30ml | Cost per day: 32p |

    This liquid contains trace minerals and salts for easy absorption to maintain the natural balance of body fluids. It can be added to a feed or syringed directly, which helps to avoid waste.

    View Horse Health Hydro Health at equus.co.uk
    View Horse Health Hydro Health at ebay.co.uk

    Likit best horse electrolytes

    Likit Sport

    Form: Lick | Sizes: 650g | RRP: £2.95 |

    This apple-flavoured electrolyte lick is designed to be used in conjunction with Likit toys. It contains sodium, potassium, chloride and magnesium in a highly palatable format.

    View Likit Sport at viovet.co.uk
    View Likit Sport at amazon.co.uk

    Plus Vital best horse electrolytes

    Plusvital Electrolyte Plus

    Form: Powder | Sizes: 2kg, 4kg, 15kg | RRP: £25.99 for 2kg | Daily measure: 25g | Cost per day: 32p |

    This supplement contains an appropriate balance of salts lost in exercise, while also providing anti-oxidant ingredients to support recovery. It’s recommended that you dilute it in water after exercise but can also be mixed into feed.

    View Plusvital Electrolyte Plus at ebay.co.uk

    Pure Electrolytes

    Pure Electrolytes

    Form: Powder | Sizes: 1.15kg | RRP: £33.50 | Daily measure: 20.5g | Cost per day: 60p |

    Formulated by top equine scientists, these electrolytes have a fat-coating technology that helps to ensure the electrolytes reach the small intestine to be absorbed. The coating also increases palatability without having to add sugar, making them suitable for horses on a low-sugar diet.

    Equiform Nutrition Xtrolyte Blue

    Equiform Nutrition Xtrolyte Blue

    Form: Liquid | Sizes: 2l, 5l, 25l | RRP: £13 for 2l | Daily measure: 60ml | Cost per day: 39p |

    This is formulated to be fed daily alongside the Equiform Multivitamin range. Its convenient liquid form makes it easy to mix into feed, especially for horses that do not accept powders.

    Rowen Barbary best horse electrolytes

    Rowen Barbary Re-Hydrate

    Form: Powder | Sizes: 1kg, 2kg | RRP: £14.20 for 1kg | Daily measure: 25g | Cost per day: 36p |

    Designed to help maintain fluid and electrolyte balance on a palatable, readily absorbed, water-soluble glucose base.

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