Suddenly drinking A LOT!!

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Dec 2, 2002
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What would cause a horse to suddenly start drinking a lot of water??

It's been warm here but the weather is actually cooling down now, and he's still drinking..and crazy! He's a seemingly healthy active 2 yr old colt, UTD on dental, worming, and vaccinations, in good weight but tending toward the lean side. If anything, I've been having a bit of trouble fattening him up....


Any suggestions appreciatied.....
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Ok, first an "easy" solution, if it is the case-- is he eating a lot of salt? Boredom or a new "habit" or something? Take it away for a day or so and see if he continues to drink excessively. It could be he is drinking out of boredom too.

My next thought is some kind of kidney damage (not likely, but...) if the salt isn't the problem, your vet can test his kidney levels.

That's all I can think of. Good luck, hope it is something very simple!
First thing that would come to mind is if there is a lot of clover in your fields or if you are feeding alfalfa in any form, hay, pellets, or pellets in the feed perhaps. That would do it.

The other thing that comes to mind is what Magic has told you. I have one that drinks gobs and gobs of water when she is in her stall due to boredom so I try to keep their outside time increased as much as possible.
My gelding Cody is doing the same thing, and with his history, I am concerned that he might be IR in the making. Is this 2 year old at all related to your IR horse?
Thanks all for your replies....


A possibilty I'll investigate further. The salt black is in the turn out only, not in his stall, and I haven't seen him licking it fact...less then the others.


I'm in the coastal DESERT of southern CA!!!! There is NO clover..NO Grass just dry and I DO mean DRY lot!

My horses get NO alfalfa hay or pellets.

Boredom is certainly a possibilty since he's a "busy boy"


Nope, I've thought the same thing, but he's totally unrelated and if anything, he's on the lean side...
Since you are in the desert, maybe he's just plain HOT!
Have you got lots and lots of shade?

Here in the mountains it's very hot and my horses are drinking water like crazy right now. I used to fill up their thingy every other day and now it's every day and sometimes twice a day.
Does he live with your IR mare, and does your IR mare drink a lot of water? The other thing that has crossed my mind is that perhaps Cody drinks a lot of water from when he was watching Misty (drink).

Coastal desert near San Diego. It's been warm, 80's, but we have a cool ocean breeze nearly every day. They have LOTS of shade..more then sun in fact..due to the huge California Pepper trees that shade my entire stable area.


He and "Reesi" (my IR mare) are neighbors..several corrals away, and never drink from the same water trough, evenin turn out. He's actually drinking more then she is...
"Normally" this is a habit from boredom and tends to occur in some horses typically only when stalled - currently we have a 2 yo mare and a gelding who will drink almost an entire 5 gallon bucket of water in a 12 hour period - and of course they will urinate that much also
No health issues, no additional salt increase, not nursing a foal, same hot weather as the other horses. It tends to occur over a period of time - normally several weeks - as they acquire the "habit"... This has been our experience in the past.

When turned back out to pasture, they have all returned to normal water intake

IR refers to "Insulin Resistant" and is akin to diabetes in humans.

Horses with this condition typically have the following "clinical" (observable) signs:

Are cresty necked, generally tend to have body fat deposits and be easy keepers. Also, they often consume seemingly excessive amounts of water and corresponding urine. They are highly prone to "founder" and other health concerns. The require special dietary considerations.

"Hosscrazy" here on the Forum is very knowledgeable about this condition and I'm sure can offer more information.
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Just glad to hear you don't think it's IR!! From what I'm understanding, IR "tendencies" CAN be genetic, but you said this little one is not related to your IR mare...

Quoting Dr. Eleanor Kellon, DVM:


A condition where the cells of the body do not respond to insulin like they should. As a result, the pancreas needs to produce more insulin than normal to get glucose and protein into the cells. This is similar to early type 2 diabetes in people – the type that does not require insulin. People with insulin resistance commonly also have an elevated blood sugar (blood glucose) level, which we don’t see in horses except in very severe cases. Insulin resistant horses will have abnormally elevated insulin though. Insulin resistance may be seen as a result of the high cortisol production in classical Cushings Disease. Might also be found in association with hypothyroidism. Ponies and “easy keeper†breeds of horses appear to be genetically programmed to be insulin resistant. In that case, it probably should not be considered a disease or disorder per se but does mean you have to be careful with their diet.


-Easy weight gain

-Abnormal fat desposits such as a cresty neck or lumpy, cellulite-like fat at the tail base. These fat deposits will usually persist even if the horse loses weight elsewhere on his body

-Puffiness (fat) in the hollows above the eyes

-History of laminitis – commonly induced by grass

-Advanced symptoms include increased thirst and urination, loss of body condition, especially muscle, weakness, low energy levels
Of course I would keep an eye out for any other signs that this could be something serious, but to help reduce your stress - my Arab mare drinks very little water, but I can count on at least two times per year (spring and fall) she gets in a weird phase and will drink double her usual intake. This usually only lasts a week or so and she's back to normal. In otherwords, maybe it's just a phase
Not to scare you but that was the only sign we saw in an arab filly of 3 who went into kidney/renal failure.......the water consumption started about 2 weeks before she had to be put down......

Talk to your vet.

Now that I'm becoming more familiar with IR, I DEFINITLY notice a genetic tendancy :-( I know my mare got it from her dam, a chronic founder victim.

Thank goodness my Reesi has never foundered yet, but she's 15 this year and I'm watching her like a hawk, and carefully controling her diet. I see the "warning signs' in some of her foals as well, so her 2006 foal will likely be her last

Is there any info specific to IR and the advisability of pregnancy in older mares?

The only other thing I've noticed with the 2 yr old colt is just that I'm having trouble keeping weight on his back recently. He's still very tucked and in good flesh, except for on his back.

Since he's consuming so much water, so you think it a good idea to add some electrolytes to his water???
I posted your question on the IR list and will PM you what they say about pregnant IR horses. When was the last time you had her blood checked? If it's been a while you may want to have that done just to see where her insulin levels are at.

Regarding the electrolytes, I personally wouldn't mess with his electrolyte levels, but I'm really conservative in that area!
Good suggestions Liz, and THANK YOU for posting to the IR list. I'll appreciate whatever info you find

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