Fluid Therapy: Are We Overdoing It?

Researchers found that many horses recovering from colic surgery probably don’t require as much water as once thought.
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Envision a horse immediately following recovery from colic surgery. You might picture a horse in a stall, muzzled to prevent him from eating, maybe with a belly band to protect the incision, and he’s probably hooked up to an intravenous (IV) catheter that’s connected to large bags of fluids. But are all those fluids necessary to aid in the horse’s recovery? Maybe not, researchers have decided.

At the 2015 American Association of Equine Practitioners’ Convention, David Freeman, MVB, PhD, Dipl. ACVS, shared the results of a study aimed at improving veterinarians’ understanding of horses’ water needs and re-evaluating fluid therapy guidelines. Freeman is the Martha and Arthur Appleton Endowed Professor in Equine Studies and chief of large animal surgery at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, in Gainesville.

There are several reasons Freeman and colleagues wanted to take a closer look at horses’ water needs. Firstly, he said, many owners become concerned about how much water their horse should drink normally. Previous research results suggest that an average horse’s maintenance water intake hovers around 30 liters (about 8 gallons) per day. Still, owners often seek out commercial products designed to increase water consumption.

“Is a horse not smart enough to drink the amount of water he needs?” he asked. “The modern horse is descended from an animal that has adapted very well to a water-deficient environment

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Erica Larson, former news editor for The Horse, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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