How Long Does It Take for a Horse to Recover From Dehydration?

closeup of a brown horse's face

As everyone knows, water is essential for life. Do you own a horse? Did you know that approximately 60 percent of their body consists of water? This includes about 30 percent of their bones, 75 percent of muscles, and as much as 85 percent of the brain. Thus, a significant percentage of a horse’s health depends on the ability to keep fluid levels in the body balanced.

Without salt supplementation and encouragement, most horses will not drink enough water to stay hydrated. This means that many of these majestic animals are at least mildly dehydrated. Left unchecked, dehydration can lead to serious health problems, such as colic or even death. Therefore, it is important to watch out for the symptoms of dehydration in your horse.

What Is Dehydration?

Dehydration refers to a situation where body tissues lack adequate water. This may be due to too much water going out or not enough coming in. On average, a horse drinks anywhere between five and fifteen gallons of water each day.

If you own a horse, you need to ensure that they have access to adequate amounts of clean water throughout the day. You should know that your horse can lose as much as five percent of its body weight in fluids before you notice any signs of dehydration.

It is important to keep a careful eye on your horse when they are running, eating, drinking, and exercising to ensure that they have adequate amounts of fluids in their body. Once a horse loses more than 15 percent of fluids in its body, its life is in danger.

Symptoms of Dehydration in Horses

Throughout the day, horses lose body fluids through sweating, urinating, and bowel movements. A dehydrated horse will not have enough water in the body to support various important functions, which can be deadly if left unaddressed. Some of the symptoms of dehydration in horses include:

  • Abnormally high heart rate

  • High rate of breathing

  • Long capillary refill time

  • Loss of skin elasticity

  • Red and dry gums

  • Dull and dry eyes

  • Lethargy

  • Loss of appetite

  • Fever

  • Dark urine

  • Dizziness and disorientation

How Long Can a Horse Go Without Water?

A horse’s body is quite strong and can tolerate a lack of fluids for extended periods. However, dehydration from a lack of water can quickly become deadly. If your horse has not been drinking for two days, you need to seek veterinary help as soon as possible. After about four days, your horse’s organs will begin to shut down, which can lead to irreversible tissue and organ damage.

Rehydrating a Dehydrated Horse

Veterinary care is essential for serious cases of dehydration in horses. A veterinarian will know the amount of fluid therapy required to rehydrate your horse. If you think your horse is suffering from dehydration, the first thing you need to do is offer them fresh and clean water.

Recovery From Dehydration

As a good starting point, allow your horse to drink water at 10-minute intervals until quenched. If your horse is still lethargic and not eating after drinking lots of water, other treatment options may be necessary. For example, your veterinarian may use IV fluid to rehydrate your horse. Your veterinarian will give you a better idea of how long it should take for your horse to recover from dehydration.

To learn about the effects of dehydration in horses, contact Chaparral Veterinary Medical Center at our office in Cave Creek, Arizona. You can call 480-595-8600 today to schedule an appointment.