Administering IV fluids to horse

The purpose of fluid therapy in horses is to enhance recovery from life-threatening diseases by correcting dehydration and shock. Depending on the disease and its severity, veterinarians have four fluid therapy options: voluntary oral intake, enteral, infusion per rectum, and intravenous.

Voluntary oral intake is a mainstay suitable for many situations, such as correcting dehydration after an endurance event. It typically involves supervised access to water, plain or with added salt. This simple, physiologically appropriate, and inexpensive system can replace water lost through sweat and respiration.

Enteral fluid therapy involves a veterinarian infusing water or a mixture of water and electrolytes (balanced to resemble plasma) into the intestinal tract through a nasogastric tube passed through the nostrils as needed or left in place. The vet might administer it intermittently or by continuous infusion to break down a large colon impaction of dehydrated feedstuff, which is a common cause of colic. It both protects against and treats dehydration. Both enteral methods pose advantages and disadvantages related to technical issues, facilities, and monitoring. The intermittent infusion rate for an average adult horse is approximately 10 liters (about 2.5 gallons) every four hours, depending on tolerance and other variables. Continuous enteral infusion involves placing a small-bore tube to allow continuous infusion by gravity from a suspended container at 5 to 10 liters (1.3 to 2.5 gallons) per hour.

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