Electrolytes and Rehydration

Electrolyte pastes can increase water consumption, improving rehydration following administration of furosemide (Salix). A recently published study was done at Michigan State University on the effects of rehydration during the 36 hours after dehydration was induced with furosemide. The study appeared in the American Journal of Veterinary Research.

Harold C. Schott II, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM, Associate Professor in equine medicine at Michigan State University and a researcher involved with the study, said that based on the study’s results, “Oral electrolyte pastes can be used in many clinical situations to treat dehydration, as well as to minimize dehydration as a result of strenuous, prolonged exercise. If they are to be used for treating a medical problem, they should be used judiciously, and should definitely be used under the supervision of a veterinarian.”

Water consumption, body weight, and blood and urine constituents were measured in six horses before and after dehydration was induced by furosemide and water was withheld overnight. The drug furosemide is frequently given to racehorses and other horses involved in strenuous exercise to prevent or minimize exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage, or bleeding from the airways. One known side effect of the drug is dehydration from its diuretic activity.

Researchers continued measurements during the 36-hour rehydration period, in which four treatments were given randomly. The treatments included electrolyte pastes that provided either 0.5 g of potassium chloride per kilogram of body weight, 0.5 g of sodium chloride/kg, 0.25 g of sodium chloride/kg and 0.25 g of potassium chloride/kg, or no electrolytes (water only) as a control group. Each horse received a treatment at four, eight, and 12 hours after the start of the rehydration period.

All treatments significantly increased water consumption, urine production, and electrolyte excretion during the final 24 hours of the rehydration period compared to the control group. Recovery of body weight was significantly greater with the sodium chloride paste, and the sodium chloride and sodium chloride-potassium chloride pastes produced a state of transient hyperhydration (temporary excess of water in the body). There were no adverse effects noted.

Schott said that ongoing studies at Michigan State University are evaluating rehydration following endurance exercise.


About the Author

Sarah Evers Conrad

Sarah Evers Conrad has a bachelor’s of arts in journalism and equine science from Western Kentucky University. As a lifelong horse lover and equestrian, Conrad started her career at The Horse: Your Guide to Equine Health Care magazine. She has also worked for the United States Equestrian Federation as the managing editor of Equestrian magazine and director of e-communications and served as content manager/travel writer for a Caribbean travel agency. When she isn’t freelancing, Conrad spends her free time enjoying her family, reading, practicing photography, traveling, crocheting, and being around animals in her Lexington, Kentucky, home.

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