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HOW CAN YOU TELL YOUR HORSE IS DEHYDRATED?
During the massage of your horse, you can easily assess if your animal shows signs of dehydration or not. Though the quality of your touch, you can tell. Usually a general loss of skin elasticity and an increase in muscle tone are the two most common forerunner signs of dehydration. As you apply some gentle effleurage, wringing and kneading massage movements, the feedback your fingertips will give you - the 4 T’s, Temperature, Texture, Tension and Tenderness- you will quickly pick up on the slight change of both the elasticity of the body tissues under your finger and in the slightly harder than usual muscle tone in your horse’s musculature.
The easiest way to check your horse skin elasticity is to simply but gently lift up the loose skin over the back and watch for its mobility. A slow return to normal can be a sign of dehydration. You can perform the same procedure over the flank and lower neck if you wish. Because of the large content of water in the body, the “rather slow skin capillary refill time” is considered a signs of dehydration. Remember that, like humans, over 70% of the horse’s weight is water. Practice this simple “trick” often so you develop a sense of what a normal, well hydrated skin feels like. Soon you will quickly detect even small changes in your animal skill flexibility.
General stiffness during stretching exercises can also be a forerunner sign of dehydration. As you regularly stretch your horse, you will develop an awareness of what is musculoskeletal flexibility is capable of. Any changes from that would be revealing of possible dehydration or stiffness resulting from other factors such as increased activity or training exercises. The fascia system of the body has many functions, one of them being to act as a huge water reservoir. So when one becomes dehydrated, one becomes increasingly stiff.
Water is one of the most important nutrients in your horse's body. Horses can go for days without food, but not water. They can lose up to 40 percent of their body weight and still survive. But when a horse loses 20 percent of his body's water, his bodily functions shut down, causing serious illnesses. It can become critical, as a 25 percent water loss could lead to his death. It is crucial for your horse to have easy access to fresh water at all times. Dehydration is common in horses, and it can lead to serious problems.
It is important to understand that many factors can play in the dehydration of your horse. When your animal is at stall rest, or simply cannot move easily due to age or other existing condition, you need to insure that he gets access to fresh water regularly. Here is a list of some of common signs of dehydration that you should be aware of:
If you notice your horse doesn't feel well, if he has quit eating, or drinking, if he has been exposed to excessive amounts of heat without water, or if he has diarrhea and not keeping water down, the safest thing is to do is to assume is that the horse is dehydrated. This may not always be the case but assuming that it is dehydration is the safest approach. When in doubt contact your veterinarian immediately.
It's so important for you to make sure that water is always available to your horse so he stays hydrated. At your favorite tack shop, or on-line, you can find all kinds of water buckets, and other appliances to ensure your animals have always access to plenty of water when they need it!Your educated hands can always tell when there are changes in your animal muscle and skin tone. Regular massage check up will help you prevent dehydration in your loved pet.
I hope you enjoyed this article and found the information useful. My goal is help you provide quality home care for the benefit of your animal.
Please visit our FREE library. Our many articles address important aspects of animal wellness and fitness. Take the time to scroll through our free library to find out how you can actively contribute to your horse’s wellness.
Animal Awareness also offers a large video library with over a 100 mini-videos that will show you how to easily perform the various massage and stretching techniques talked about in this article, and more. These videos offer you the correct start and visual guidance. With this knowledge, you will be able to develop a good home care program for the benefit of your animal friend. He will love you for it.
Enjoy your new Awareness!
Jean-Pierre Hourdebaigt, LMT
A regular application of the “Full Body Massage” (EV006) allows you to regularly check on your horse and serves as a great preventive measure. Also, the use of “Stretching Exercises” (EV007) will best second your preventive home-care program.
If you are just starting with your home care program, consider our “Introduction to Animal Massage” package,a 20% discount value on the first 7 DVDs, to secure a sound foundation in your animal massage skills. Then take advantage of our other packages to increase your knowledge of home-care protocols for the benefit of your horse(s).