Gordon A Chalmers, DVM
Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada
As printed in the CRPU Year Book 2010
The addition of electrolytes to commercial products for racing pigeons is likely based on their well-known use in athletic animals such as horses and humans. Both of these species have sweat glands that allow them to sweat profusely as a means of dissipating heat during vigorous exercise. At such times, not only fluids but also electrolytes are lost - and both must be replaced. However, pigeons don't have sweat glands, and because they don't sweat, they don't lose electrolytes in this way.
What should fanciers do instead? Simply this: Before birds are shipped and after they arrive home from any race, allow them ready access to fresh water without electrolytes. As a routine throughout the year, it is obvious that fanciers should also provide daily access to a wide-ranging loose mineral mix from which pigeons are quite capable of establishing normal levels of electrolytes in the circulatory system and indeed throughout the body. As well, since foods of animal origin are usually good sources of electrolytes, the addition of a livestock pellet containing animal-source protein as a portion of the diet is also a good idea.
CRPU Year Books can be obtained through membership of the Canadian Racing Pigeon Union