Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Electrolytes: the good, the bad and the... ulcers?

Let me start this post off with a big old "I'd love to hear what everyone else thinks!"

Digby is not a big water drinker. I currently supplement him with Apple-A-Day during the cold winter months and during the hot summer months. If he's at a facility that gives beet pulp during the winter, I don't give them because I feel he's doing ok water wise but I'll still give them during the summer. If it goes below 25 degrees, he gets a 1 oz dose of electrolytes in the AM. If the temperature varies greatly, I give him a 1/2 oz dose. In the summer when it's super hot and humid, he gets between 1 oz and 1 1/2 oz. I've tried SmartLytes and while he gobbled it down with no problem, he seemed to sweat more and drink more with Apple-A-Day. I won't use Stress Dex or AccuLytes because of all the sugars and filler in them. It seems to work for him. In the winter, he drinks enough that I don't worry about colic and in the summer months, he sweats.

I've always been under the impression that electrolyte supplements are a bit useless but no harm done unless you give too much. It makes me feel better. He definitely drinks more. Win win. According to some research (thanks to whoever posted about this the on COTH forums!) I didn't know about, electrolyte supplementing can cause ulcers. Oh goodness. Didn't I just discuss how I didn't want to give NSAIDs because I was worried about ulcers? Digby is a worrier by nature and I want to do everything possible to not give him ulcers if he doesn't have them already. I also read that little to no drinking can be a sign of ulcers. I think I knew this already and forgot... Oops.

 He has a Himalayan salt lick in his stall that he does regularly lick. I was thinking of offering him free choice salt (either straight table salt or a mixture of half lite/half table salt) in a small bucket as well to help. Any ideas?


  1. Hmmm my barn owner feeds something that I probably won't get exactly right. It's something like 12:12 something and it's made by purina. It's like one of those brown mineral blocks but crushed up so you can feed it mixed in with the grain. Anyway, I'm wondering if that would be better than electrolytes because I feed them to my own horse and had no idea that they could cause ulcers!!

    1. It's probably this.. http://horse.purinamills.com/products/naturesessentials/ECMD2-0032706.aspx and I don't think it has anything in it to be like an electrolyte. It's got salt but I'm not sure how much you need to be considered helpful to the horse.. but I'm not a nutrition expert. :) And see the other response for answer about the ulcers!

  2. I think there is a lot of research still being done on whether or not electrolytes actually help horses that aren't doing extreme athletic work (which in that case will probably have electrolyte issues) and whether or not it will keep your horse hydrated. In reality....if you are giving electrolytes....these could make you "dehydrated" because it pushes certain molecules in/out of cells which is why horses drink when given them. However, I believe there is still a lot of controversy about this topic.
    On the ulcer aspect.....what I have learned in school is pretty much EVERYTHING can cause ulcers. Anything that changes the stomach sodium/Cl/H pumps, anything that causes irritation, anything that stresses them out, certain types of food, certain types of management, etc. If you scope 100 horses that are on the exact same regimen of food, supplements, management, exercise, etc., about 50 of them will have ulcers that have gone unnoticed and the other 50 won't. So it really is a horse by horse basis and I think if you get a baseline .... aka yes my horse has ulcers or no he doesn't, then you can go from there. Chances are if he doesn't have ulcers now, he probably won't have them unless he gets extremely extremely stressed or has a huge management change in feeding.
    Hope that helps some!
    If you want opinion and not just facts..... I don't give any of my horses electrolytes. I think they are waste of time and money and I think that horses usually are able to maintain their bodies pretty decently hydration-wise as long as you always have a clean, available water source (not half frozen in the winter!) Most of the water issues, unless you have a ridiculously picky horse that refuses to drink water in the winter, come from people not giving clean water or adequate amount of water or having a horse turned out in a field where there is only ONE water source for a bunch of horses and because of pecking order, the lower ones sometimes are never able to get to drink as much as needed because they are always being run away from the water source by the top horse. Those are the main reasons for impaction colics and dehydration due to water intake.
    Again, hope that helps!

  3. Thanks! :) I made this post because I was thinking about not giving him electrolytes anymore and your comment just helped reassure that idea. I'll finish up this bucket then stop giving them and see how it goes. I may still add a little bucket of free choice salt since it's very cheap.

    And as for the ulcers, yeah I figured. It's like cancer. Apparently EVERYTHING causes them. Haha go figure...

    I did start giving electrolytes because I was worried about him drinking water in the winter and ending up colicing or dehydrated. He's only been colicy twice since I've known him (6 years now!) and both times it was winter. He gets a balanced diet, lots of forage and has fresh water in his stall as well as two troughs outside.