Potassium (K)

AT A GLANCE:

Potassium is important for nerve impulses and muscle function. It is also involved in acid-base balance, enzymatic function, protein synthesis and glucose metabolism. It is mainly intra-cellular. Potassium is also stored in the large intestine. Potassium plays a role in the drainage of the body (diuresis).


Electrolytes and their roles:


  • Stimulation of thirst (rehydration/renal function)
  • Regulation of nerve impulses (balance of electrical charges)
  • Regulation of muscular contraction/relaxation cycles (lack of electrolytes =>myopathy)
  • Involvement in blood coagulation

Pay attention, a single excessive dose may induce stomach ulcers.


A lack of muscle relaxation can be induced by a hydro-electrical unbalance.

Potassium (K)

Electrolytes and rehydration:


Electrolytes loss in sweat in the healthy adult horse is essentially linked to the work load, temperature and humidity.


In extreme conditions a horse may lose up to 12 l of sweat per hour. (Weigh your horse before and after effort!)



Sweat composition:


  • Sodium (3.1 g/l)
  • Chloride (5.3 g/l)
  • Potassium (1.6 g/l)
  • plus calcium, magnesium, phosphate,…

Feed can compensate for some electrolytes losses:


  • Forage is rich in electrolytes
  • A salt block furnishes an average of 10 g of salt per day (just enough to cover the  needs for a horse at rest)
  • Additional electrolytes must be given after heavy exercise or in hot conditions.

For a good use of electrolytes in horses


Regulation of nerve impulse (balance of electrical charges):


The risk of accident is increased if the horse is dehydrated, because of a lack of water but also of electrolytes.