Protexin’s innovative product Gut Lix provides salt supplementation and supports the gastrointestinal system - but why do horses need salt and what’s the link between salt and the gut?
The importance of electrolytes Salts are made up of electrolytes, such as Sodium, Calcium and Chloride, which the body needs for a variety of vital processes. The importance of having the right quantity and balance of electrolytes cannot be stressed enough; electrolytes keep the heart beating, the muscles contracting, the nerves firing, the kidneys working, and the gut moving. A lack of or imbalance in the body’s electrolytes can affect any one or all of these systems and more.
Electrolytes are taken in as salts in the diet, and in a resting horse, lost into the urine, under the control of the kidneys which tightly regulate levels in the blood. However, when exercising, the horse’s extensive muscle mass generates a huge amount of heat which must be dissipated from the body to avoid overheating. Sweat is produced, carrying heat away from the body as it evaporates. This means that when in intensive exercise a horse can lose up to four gallons of sweat per hour. In that four gallons of sweat, up to thirty teaspoons of salt are lost. This represents a massive loss of electrolytes.
In a large study of horses eventing at various levels, horses lost between 2-6% of their bodyweight and up to 20% of the electrolytes in their blood in sweat whilst on the cross country. We must replace these lost salts to ensure proper recovery from exercise and continued good health. Small electrolyte deficits can prolong recovery, cause dehydration, muscle stiffness and slow down the gut.
Replacing the lost salt, also drives drinking and rehydration. This may seem odd as after a session in the saddle you may not find yourself reaching for a bottle of salt water. However, a horse’s desire to drink is controlled by the salt concentration of its blood. Taking in salt after exercise stimulates the thirst response and leads to better rehydration over the following 24 hours.
So, why not just add some electrolytes to the feed after exercise? Many products are available, and will give you control over how much salt your horse takes in. But, taking in a large quantity of salt all at once can draw water out of the gut wall and blood stream, actually making dehydration worse and in one study even predisposing the horses to gastric ulceration. It’s better to let your horse regulate its own salt intake; after all, they’ve managed millions of years without us interfering! Providing a Gut Lix means that electrolytes are always available if required.
How are electrolytes linked to the gut?
The hind gut: Electrolyte loss can slow the gut down, and any change can have a knock on effect on the bacteria living inside it. This is part of the reason that vets have found a proven link between exercise and an upset in the balance of bacteria in the gut. A small imbalance might not be obvious, but might make a horse sluggish or irritable, reduce its ability to digest fibre, and predispose it to colic or laminitis. It is important therefore to support the good bacteria, and maintain digestive health during exercise. Gut Lix does this by delivering our patented Preplex® prebiotic, which encourages the growth of health positive bacteria.
The stomach: The salt in Gut Lix encourages the production of saliva. Saliva is important not only for proper chewing and swallowing, it also helps to neutralise the stomach acid, reducing the risk of ulcers. It is known that under modern management systems horses are not producing enough saliva, as they are not eating throughout the day. This change is contributing to the high rate of gastric ulcers, especially in stabled horses. Salt encourages salivation and drinking without providing extra calories. So you can see that electrolyte replacement and gut health are intricately linked. Gut Lix supports both of these systems, helping to ensure salt intake, rehydration, and good gut health.
Article by equinepremium.com - Liam Gamble, Veterinary International Business Manager Liam Gamble is a veterinary surgeon and part of the technical team at Protexin Equine Premium. He graduated from Cambridge University before working in equine practice in North Yorkshire. Having spent years owning, competing and working with horses he joined the Protexin team keen to advance veterinary and owner education in the fields of equine nutrition and probiotics.