Sheep farmers know having an electrolyte on hand for a case of the scours or other illnesses is important.
Sheep processors administer electrolytes to improve hydration and ensure a better meat product.
But if you’re out of electrolytes, will normal Gatorade work for your sheep?
Many sheep owners use Gatorade and other homemade electrolyte solutions to maintain correct pH levels for their livestock. Electrolyte solutions should restore fluids, correct the pH and electrolyte levels in the blood, and provide nutritional support.
Electrolytes are essential minerals like sodium, calcium, potassium, chloride, phosphate, and magnesium, which are important to bodily functions.
Gatorade only supplies sodium, potassium, and sugar but is an acceptable substitute in a pinch until you get a specific livestock electrolyte solution.
For more about using electrolytes with sheep, keep reading!
Gatorade For Battling The Stress of Travel or Handling
People who show sheep also use electrolytes to combat the stress of travel and showing and to bring their sheep’s weight back up.
Sheep get very stressed during handling and transportation and may stop eating and drinking, causing weight loss.
Sheep can lose as much as 10% of their body weight from being transported.
The ideal is for animals to maintain a more constant weight during handling and transportation.
Feeding the sheep an electrolyte solution encourages normal eating and drinking patterns and reduces the amount of weight loss.
Otherwise, sheep who only have access to water will fast during transport and binge-eat at the end.
Always make sure your sheep have access to water.
Sheep Need Electrolyte Replenishment During Illness
The Scours is diarrhea from various causes, such as worms, the protozoan Coccidia, and the bacteria Campylobacter and Yersinia.
An Ivermectin drench at weaning helps reduce larval load and prevent the scours.
Still, if the scours occur, an electrolyte solution helps the sick animal stay hydrated and keeps their electrolytes in balance.
Sheep farmers use homemade and commercial electrolyte solutions to help replenish lost liquid and nutrients.
A homemade “natural goat electrolyte solution” may include sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) to buffer acids, salt for the sodium, sugar for palatability, calories, absorption, and warm water for the fluid.
A commercial livestock electrolyte solution will also include more electrolytes and extra vitamins.
According to the University of Kentucky, the criteria for a commercial livestock electrolyte are:
- It must supply enough sodium to balance the sodium loss quickly.
- It must include agents (glucose, citrate or citric acid, acetate, propionate, or glycine) that increase sodium and water absorptionater from the intestine.
- Electrolyte solution must provide an alkalinizing agent (acetate, propionate, or bicarbonate) to prevent the blood from being too acidic.
- It must provide caloric energy to replace what has been spent.
Sometimes some pain relief will make your sick sheep feel better enough to take a nibble here and there and drink some clean water.
Always follow the guidelines set forth by your livestock vet.
Related: Can sheep have Bute for pain?
Electrolytes and Loss of Appetite In Sheep
Sheep primarily need to get their fluids from fresh water and minerals from loose sheep minerals and plant materials such as fruit tree branches.
When sheep are stressed or ill, and their electrolytes become unbalanced, they need electrolytes immediately, or they may lose their appetite, fail to drink, and become dehydrated.
A major effect of illness and stress on sheep is the loss of appetite, which spirals into poorer health and a lack of energy to fight infection or parasites.
Ways to restore appetite range from B vitamin shots to a beer drench.
Yes, you read it right.
Many sheep owners tout the benefits of beer with their animals in rejuvenating their interest in food and clean water.
It is recommended to use craft beers, as there are more vitamins and minerals in craft beer.
Craft beers are higher in levels of vitamin B 6.
Dark beers have the most antioxidants and higher iron content than lighter beers.
Beer has a high energy content and is 93% water to help with dehydration.
Commonly Asked Questions
How Do You Stimulate A Sheep’s Appetite?
A sheep may experience a loss of appetite because of a bacterial, viral, or parasitic infection.
A livestock vet can pinpoint what is wrong with your sheep.
Beer apparently stimulates sheep’s appetites.
The quick calories, the yeast, and the fluid all help the rumen rebalance.
If a sheep does not eat, the rumen will not work and vice versa, so breaking this cycle is important.
Is Gatorade Good for Lambs?
If lambs cry between feedings and commercial electrolytes are unavailable, give them Gatorade or Pedialyte to fill their tummies and give them electrolytes without overfilling them with milk.
Overfeeding is a common mistake new owners make with bottle-baby lambs.
Giving them electrolytes will not hurt if they have Enterotoxemia, also known as overeating or pulpy kidney disease.
It will help if they are losing water from the body through feces and dehydrating rapidly.
Can You Give Sheep Pedialyte?
Pedialyte is similar to Gatorade and may be given to sheep as well.
One thing to note is how Pedialyte may be better for diarrhea-induced dehydration.
The two products have slightly different calories, carbohydrates, and electrolytes, Pedialyte being more of an electrolyte replenisher and Gatorade being more of an energy/sports drink.
Gatorade may be better for exercise-induced dehydration.
How Can You Tell Your Lamb Is Dehydrated?
Signs of dehydration are sunken eyes and “tenting” skin (where it stays “tented” if you pinch some).
A dehydrated lamb will have diminished appetite and dark urine.
Urine color changes from clear to yellow to orange to brown as dehydration progresses from none to severe.
Other common signs of dehydration in sheep include:
- Low energy
- Reduced appetite
- Panting or breathing heavy
- Discolored urine
- Dry muzzle and oral cavity
- Sunken eyes
- Loose skin
- Muscle weakness*
- Lowered body temperature
*Further Reading: What happens when a sheep can’t get up?