Dehydration Eyed as Cause of Utah Horse Deaths

Dehydration Eyed as Cause of Utah Horse Deaths

Easterwood said most full-sized adult horses drink 5 to 10 gallons of water per day.


Utah law enforcement authorities are probing the possible dehydration-related deaths of 10 horses discovered in a Salt Lake County pasture.

Lieutenant Justin Hoyal, of the Unified Police Department of Greater Salt Lake, said Unified Police personnel answered a call regarding dead horses located in a private Magna, Utah, pasture on July 18. Further investigation revealed that 10 horses had died in the pasture, he said. One other horse survived and is receiving rehabilitative treatment, he said.

“There was no water source for the horses,” Hoyal said.

Hoyal said dehydration might be the cause of the horses' deaths, but that the exact cause will be revealed by results of necropsies conducted by the Utah state veterinarian's office.

No one has been charged with the horse deaths, but charges could be forthcoming, Hoyal said.

While the investigation continues, Leslie Easterwood, MA, DVM, assistant clinical professor at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine, explained that a horse's need to consume water and have constant access to a source of fresh, clean water is critical. Like humans, horses sweat to cool themselves—especially during hot weather—and lose fluids in the process, she said .

“The horse would become dehydrated if it were not given access to fresh water to replace loss from sweating,” she said.

Easterwood said most full-sized adult horses drink 5 to 10 gallons of water per day, with a basic calculated daily maintenance requirement of between 6 and 8 gallons for water for a 1,000-pound horse.

“Some situations could easily double a horse's requirement, and extreme exercise, extreme temperatures, or illness could all contribute to added need (for water),” Easterwood said.

Easterwood said that dehydrated horses generally breathe faster than normal, do not sweat normally, and have an elevated core temperature, a combination that could prove quite serious if not treated promptly. If a horse is dehydrated, she recommends providing the animal with access to copious quantities of fresh water.

“Most clinicians will offer a horse 10 gallons of water per day, and adjust it if the horse is taking in that entire amount,” she said. “If a horse is exercised, or housed in very hot environments, then more should be offered.”

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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