Electrolyte Solutions For Dogs

Kurt Matushek, DVM, MS

I notice that some people give their dogs electrolyte supplements at tournaments. Is this beneficial for the dogs?

At last year's meeting of the International Sled Dog Veterinary Medical Association, Dr. William Beltran from France reported on studies that he did on the electrolyte requirements of sled dogs. In his opinion, according to a news report in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, properly trained and conditioned sled dogs maintained on high-quality diets and not affected by vomiting or diarrhea do not need electrolyte supplements.

Now, dogs competing in flyball are working hard, but they are not expending anywhere near the energy that sled dogs are. (In a study by Dr. Hinchcliff and colleagues, marathon racing huskies were using 11,200 calories per day during competition. That amounts to about 20 cups of a premium dog food for a 40 pound dog.) If these marathon huskies do not require electrolyte supplementation, it is a pretty good bet that flyball dogs do not either.

The most likely explanation for why dogs do not need electrolytes and people do is that people thermoregulate by sweating, dogs thermoregulate by panting. Human sweat contains electrolytes (that's why sweat tastes salty), and the electrolytes in sweat are lost to the body. Panting does not result in large losses of electrolytes.

So, save the electrolyte solutions for yourselves. Make sure your dogs have plenty of clean water, and spend the money you might have spent on electrolyte solutions on your dogs instead.

Copyright © 1996 Kathryn Hogg,
Last Modified: Aug 28, 1996