Is My Horse Dehydrated? How to Recognize Equine Dehydration

The hot summer weather has arrived, and, with it, the need to monitor your horse’s hydration more closely than during the cooler months of the year. Dehydration can affect your horse’s performance, damage their health, and also be deadly. Equine hydration requires a careful balance of water and electrolyte intake. To protect your horse from the dangers of dehydration, you should be aware of the signs of equine dehydration and keep a close eye on your horse.

4 Ways to Tell If Your Horse Is Dehydrated

1. Skin Elasticity

When a horse is adequately hydrated, you can pinch its skin and it will snap right back into place. You can test a horse’s hydration level by pinching their skin near the point of the shoulder blade and keeping track of how long it takes for the skin to move back into place. Two to four seconds indicates a moderately dehydrated horse, and any longer than four seconds indicates a severely dehydrated horse.

2. Capillary Refill Time (CRT)

Hydrated horses have pink, moist gums. When you press your finger against the gum tissue, it will leave a white spot behind where the blood has been pushed out of the horse’s capillaries. If hydrated, the white spot will return to a pink color almost instantly. If it takes more than three seconds for the capillaries to refill and the white spot to disappear, then the horse is likely dehydrated.

3. Stiffness

Hydrated horses are more flexible than dehydrated horses. If your horse seems stiffer than usual when stretching, the stiffness could be a sign that your horse is dehydrated. Follow-up with the pinch test or CRT test and an equine veterinarian.

4. Weariness

Dehydrated horses can become confused, tired, and lose the ability to focus. Additionally, a dehydrated horse might not seem thirsty because it might stop drinking or refuse to drink water. If you notice any of these symptoms in your horse, especially when working in hot weather, seek veterinary attention right away.

Equine Nutrition, Hydration, and Wellness With Advanced Equine of the Hudson Valley

At Advanced Equine of the Hudson Valley, our equine veterinarians are horse hydration experts. We can help you create an environment and hydration regimen for your horse to help promote healthy hydration during summer. Additionally, if you notice any signs of dehydration in your horse or suspect that your horse could be dehydrated for any reason, we strongly encourage you to contact us for emergency equine care right away.