Electrolytes and Dehydration

When riding, driving, or packing your donkey or mule, the biggest enemy is dehydration. I give my mule 10 CC of electrolytes anytime I am riding a six to eight hour day. You can purchase a tube of electrolytes at any feed store. The electrolytes are given at the corner of the mouth. You can train your animal to open his mouth correctly for this procedure by practicing with a carrot at the corner of the mouth.

For heat dissipation and body cooling, at three miles an hour, your animal loses about 1.3 gallons of sweat per hour under moderate conditions. The salts/electrolytes sodium, potassium, chloride, magnesium and calcium are also lost with this loss of fluid. These electrolytes are responsible for the transfer of water through cell membranes, for nerves to fire and muscles to contract. Large losses of electrolytes can result in several neuromuscular and systemic disturbances including muscle cramping, tying up, synchronous diaphragmatic flutter (thumps) and systemic alkaloids.

Your goal as the mule or donkey owner is to prevent electrolyte imbalance and dehydration in your animal through proper fluid and electrolyte replacement. The proper balance can greatly prolong reaching the point of fatigue and also decrease recovery time.

If you’re feeding a well-formulated diet, the chances are good that they’ve met the electrolyte needs of the lightly to moderately worked mule or donkey, under most conditions (always make plain salt available). Electrolyte availability can become a problem when the rate of loss exceeds the rate of replacement. If the mule or donkey sweats for a prolonged period of time, due to extreme weather conditions (high humidity, high heat), prolonged exercise (endurance type work), heavy work, transporting, or being trained, electrolyte needs will not always be met through their feed. For these mules and donkeys, electrolyte supplementation becomes necessary to maintain body functions at an optimum level and to increase water intake preventing dehydration. Electrolytes should not be given to a mule or donkey that is already dehydrated, except under the supervision of a veterinarian.

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