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Keywords:

  • horse;
  • aldosterone;
  • electrolytes;
  • faeces;
  • hypokalemia;
  • urine

Summary

The aim of this study was to investigate the adaptation to an increased potassium (K+) intake in horses and to study whether the regulation of the post exercise K+, sodium (Na+) and fluid balances were altered by an increased K+ intake. Four Standardbred horses were fed 2 levels (4.1 and 5.4 mmol/kg bwt/day) of K+ for 17 days in a crossover design. The effects on K+, Na+ and fluid balance were studied both at rest and in response to 29 km exercise. K+, Na+ and fluid intakes and outputs were balanced within 24 h after a new diet had been introduced. Adaptation consisted primarily of an increased urinary K+ excretion, later followed by an increase in faecal excretion. The increased urinary K+ excretion was associated with an increased mass of urine (1.2–1.4 kg/day) compensated for by an increased water intake. The sweat Na+ concentration was increased on the highest K+ intake (from 123 ± 5 mmol/l to 138 ± 3 mmol/l) and the urinary Na+ excretion was lower post exercise on this diet. There were no differences in the magnitude of post exercise hypokalaemia between the diets, and plasma K+ concentration was still reduced 24 h post exercise even when the horses were fed the higher K+ diet. Adaptation to an increased K+ intake was rapid in these horses and consisted mainly of an increased urinary excretion. The response to exercise was unaltered by the increased K+ intake, except for an increased Na+ concentration in sweat.