Last Updated on July 26, 2022
When it comes to neurological problems, electrolytes in older horses are often discussed as a possible cause of seizures. But what are electrolytes, and can electrolytes cause seizures in older horses? ? Let’s find out!
What Are Electrolytes In Older Horses?
The equine body contains a large amount of fluid – in fact, the horse’s body is comprised of nearly 70% water! Within this water is a large amount of minerals and compounds called electrolytes. These electrically charged minuscule particles are vital to enable the body to function normally, helping with tasks such as producing energy and the contraction of muscles.
There are many types of electrolytes, but the five most common in horses are sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and chloride. The horse takes in electrolytes through food and drink and loses them through sweat, urine, and feces. Sweat contains large amounts of sodium, and chloride – the two components of salt, which is why sweat tastes salty!
The balance of electrolytes in the body is very delicate, and it is essential that this balance is maintained to enable the body to function normally. When electrolyte imbalances occur, the horse can become seriously unwell.
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What Are Seizures In Horses?
The word seizure is described to describe a neurological problem that affects the brain of an animal. Seizures are relatively common in humans and dogs, where the condition is often referred to as epilepsy. Seizures in horses are much rarer, although they can often be catastrophic.
When a seizure occurs, it is a result of an imbalance of the electrical activity in the brain. When this happens, the parts of the brain that control excitation and inhibition become imbalanced, and a series of neurological effects may be seen.
The types of seizures that occur in horses are referred to as either focal seizures or generalized seizures. Focal seizures occur when there is a localized abnormal discharge in just one area of the brain, causing symptoms that only affect specific parts of the body. A generalized seizure involves the entire brain and will affect the whole body.
Symptoms of focal seizures in the horse include the following:
- Tremors or muscle twitching of the facial muscles
- Biting at the ground
- Violent head shaking
- Jaw grinding
A generalized seizure in the horse will normally result in collapse and uncoordinated movements of the limbs, referred to as bilateral motor activity. It is likely that the horse will be unconscious, and will not respond to external stimuli. A focal seizure can progress into a generalized seizure.
Read more about How Can You Help A Horse That Is Abused?
Can Electrolytes Cause Seizures In Older Horses?
There is a link between electrolyte abnormalities and seizures in horses, although this is not always specific to older horses. Electrolytes are vital to maintain the normal functioning of the body systems, and an imbalance in electrolytes can cause neurological problems including seizures.
The reasons why a horse may suffer from an imbalance in electrolytes are many. Firstly, the horse may not be taking in enough electrolytes to replace those lost through normal urination and defecation. When this occurs, one or more electrolytes are not replenished, and the overall electrolyte balance becomes disrupted.
The other main reason why an imbalance in electrolytes may occur is because of abnormal water losses from the body. Electrolytes can be lost through several different routes:
- Excessive urination, for example, when a horse has been given diuretics or is suffering from a metabolic disorder that causes increased urination.
- Diarrhea, which causes to be expelled with the feces, preventing the absorption of electrolytes by the digestive tract.
- Gastric reflux, seen in horses with severe colic and intestinal blockages.
- Excessive sweating, as a result of disease, overheating, or intensive exercise.
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Some other health problems of horses, such as liver disease, can also cause electrolyte imbalances in horses that may lead to seizures.
If your horse is suffering from neurological problems, your veterinarian will carry out blood tests to check for abnormal levels of electrolytes, as well as other potential underlying problems. If an imbalance of electrolytes is diagnosed, this can be corrected by either intravenous fluid therapy or giving additional electrolytes in the water or food.
Summary – Electrolytes In Older Horses
So, as we have learned in our review of electrolytes in older horses seizures, there is a link between electrolyte abnormalities and seizures in horses. However, this is not always specific to older horses. Electrolytes are vital to maintaining the normal functioning of the body systems, and any imbalance in electrolytes can cause neurological problems including seizures.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on electrolytes in older horses seizures! Do you have an elderly horse that suffers from seizures or other neurological problems? Or maybe you’ve got some questions about the best electrolytes to give to horses? Leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you!
What Would Cause A Horse To Have A Seizure?
There are many reasons why a horse may have a seizure. These include problems that occur inside the brain, such as head trauma or a brain tumor. Seizures can also be triggered by problems elsewhere in the body, such as the ingestion of toxins, or metabolic health disorders.
What Can You Give Horses For Seizures?
The treatment of seizures in horses can be very difficult, as finding the reason for the seizures may require extensive diagnostic tests. The treatment given for seizures depends on the underlying cause, but may include anticonvulsant drugs to reduce the seizures. Corticosteroids may also be administered to reduce inflammation and tissue damage in the brain.
Can Cushing’s Cause Seizures In Horses?
Cushing's disease is an endocrine disease seen commonly in elderly horses. This disorder causes a hormonal imbalance that leads to disruption of the normal body systems of the horse. Seizures in horses with Cushing's disease have been recorded, but are very rare.
What Are The Signs Of Cushings In Horses?
The classic sign of Cushing's disease in horses is a long curly coat. This is normally accompanied by patchy sweating, and the horse may drink and urinate more than normal. Horses with Cushing's disease often also develop a 'pot bellied' appearance, and lose muscle tone along the top of the back.
Kate Chalmers is a qualified veterinary nurse who has specialized in horse care for the vast majority of her career. She has been around horses since she was a child, starting out riding ponies and helping out at the local stables before going on to college to study Horse Care & Management. She has backed and trained many horses during her lifetime and competed in various equestrian sports at different levels.
After Kate qualified as a veterinary nurse, she provided nursing care to the patients of a large equine veterinary hospital for many years. She then went on to teach horse care and veterinary nursing at one of the top colleges in the country. This has led to an in-depth knowledge of the care needs of horses and their various medical ailments, as well as a life-long passion for educating horse owners on how to provide the best possible care for their four-legged friends.
Kate Chalmers BSc (Hons) CVN, Dip AVN (Equine) Dip HE CVN EVN VN A1 PGCE