Dietary Sources of Potassium for HorsesBy Kentucky Equine Research Staff · May 27, 2015
Have you ever given much thought to the amount of potassium your horse requires each day? Like many minerals, horses need potassium for their physiological well-being, but which feedstuffs contain this essential macromineral?
Forage contains a high level of potassium, so most horses consume more than they require. Horses can excrete excess potassium in urine, but a potassium deficiency can cause significant problems. When compared to human sweat, equine sweat has a high potassium content. Limited forage intake, diets high in grain but low in forage, or substantial sweat losses could contribute to a potassium deficiency.
Endurance horses that sweat heavily, sustaining large fluid losses and undergoing a period of reduced or no forage intake, for example, are particularly susceptible to substantial potassium loss. Potassium losses may also be exacerbated in some equines by the use of diuretics, such as furosemide, given in an attempt to reduce exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage in racehorses. Finally, increased fecal potassium loss occurs in horses with diarrheal diseases and is often aggravated by the decreased feed intake associated with illness.
Approximately 75% of the body’s potassium is found in skeletal muscle and is essential to its function. Therefore, muscle weakness, fatigue, and exercise intolerance are likely when potassium deficiency is present. In addition, decreased feed and water intake occurs in horses with potassium deficiency. This diminished appetite will serve to further reduce potassium intake. Fresh green grass is appealing to most horses, and turnout on good pasture will help horses maintain an adequate supply of potassium.
For horses given furosemide, commonly called Lasix, to train and race, Race Recovery is indicated for quick rebound from intense work and an abbreviated period between races.