Dehydration in Horses

Horses need to get enough water, and sometimes they just don’t drink enough. That’s when dehydration can start happening! Dehydration in horses is really scary because it messes up their body systems in a lot of different ways. This includes the way they digest food or how fast oxygen goes through their bloodstream. Summertime isn’t great either because hot days make them want to stay inside more where there might not be any fresh drinking water around!

Dehydration is a common problem for horses ridden on long, hot days. Horses often stop drinking enough water when they are in the heat and it’s easy to see why! They should drink 12 gallons of water each day but most don’t get nearly that amount so dehydration can happen if you’re not careful with your horse. You might also experience less-than-pleasant side effects like constipation or diarrhea which will make things even harder for both of you!

Debut and sponsored rider Alexis Cwik
Sponsored rider Alexis Cwik and her mount getting a ride in while being conscious of the heat and risks of dehydration.

Symptoms & Signs of Dehydration in Horses

Red/Dry Mucous Membrane, Lethargy, Skin Tenting, Sweating/Not Sweating, Dull dry eyes, Loss of appetite, High heart rate, Fever, Dark Urine, disorientation/dizziness

Causes of Dehydration

Dehydration in horses is often due to inadequate fluid replacement. This is a really scary and dangerous situation for horses, especially in the hot summertime months! Horses are extremely sensitive to heat: they lose more than 60% of their water through sweating alone. In addition, respiration causes dehydration by removing moisture from tissues within the lungs as air passes over them during breathing; finally feces also contain large amounts of liquid that needs replaced too. A horse can lose 10 liters of sweat in an hour and about 10% of its weight. If the weather is hot and humid, then they will lose 50% more than usual.

How to Test for Dehydration in Horses

Skin Pinch Test, Appearance of Gums, Check Eyes, Capillary Refill– most accurate blood chemistry analysis


As working animals dehydration in horses is a very prominent issue that can occur during a daily ride especially in the hotter seasons.  That said, they need to stay hydrated. They drink around 15 gallons of water a day when they’re in hard work, so it’s important for them to have access to fresh and clean drinking water at all times. Ventilation is also key because the horse needs an environment with good ventilation or else their stable can become stuffy which could cause illness like colic. Additionally, moisture matters too! Keeping food moist can increase their intake of fluids even more than usual – soaking hay is one way this can easily be done! Learn more about how to hydrate a dehydrated horse here.

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