With the high temperatures of summer upon us, it may be a struggle to arrange training rides at the cooler times of the day. However, beyond general discomfort and sweaty saddle pads, our equine partners face a more dangerous threat in the heat — anhidrosis or the inability to sweat. Studies have shown between 2 percent to 6 percent of horses in the hot, humid climates of the American South may be at risk of developing this disease. But what causes this dangerous condition?
Due to their heavy body mass and powerful muscle groups, horses generate a lot of heat, both while exercising and even while at rest. Their main methods of self-regulating temperature are the production and evaporation of sweat on the skin surface and increased respiration.
Under the repeated stress of extreme temperatures, the sweat glands can simply stop functioning, either gradually or suddenly. With no apparent links to breed, age, color, or sex, seemingly no explanation exists for why some horses are affected while others are not. Individual horses that have experienced anhidrosis in the past show an increased risk for non-sweating in the years that follow. So, it is important to take preventative measures and know what early symptoms to look for.
Try the following to prevent damaging those precious little sweat glands:
Try to schedule your rides during the cooler parts of the day
The are a few apparent signs that your horse may be suffering from anhidrosis that you don’t need a veterinary degree to identify. You’ll find them breathing hard, nostrils flaring, and little to no sweat on their neck, chest, or flanks. Check under the mane, where most horses will sweat easily on a hot day. You should always have sweat marks under your saddle in the summer! Rectal temperature (normal 98-101.5 F) and heart rate may be elevated, also.
If the non-sweating occurs during a ride, you may notice them tiring quickly, becoming sluggish, or breathing rapidly. If this occurs, stop immediately and cool the horse down to avoid pushing them into heatstroke and collapse. Call a veterinarian if you notice your horse displaying these signs.
A rule of thumb: If it is too hot for you to run the course, don’t ask your horse to do it.
In chronic cases, the change in normal skin behavior causes horses to develop hair loss, dry flaky skin (especially on the forehead), and leads to anorexia and decreased water consumption.
Unfortunately, the only sure-fire solution for a horse that develops anhidrosis is moving it to a cooler climate. Electrolyte mixes, beer brews, and other feed supplements claim to fix this problem. However, since most are used in combination with management changes, it’s hard to say what actually helps the horse. Thankfully, most of these are not dangerous, so there’s no harm in trying them.
Recent research suggests acupuncture and Chinese herbs may help non-sweating horses. What took traditional Chinese medicine practitioners thousands of years to discover, Western science has now started to confirm in part. Acupuncture points actually do contain large numbers of nerve endings, vascular and lymphatic vessels, and mast cells. Stimulating these points can result in pain relief, nervous system stimulation, immunity regulation, and improved thermoregulation.
Chinese herbs and food therapy have a similar holistic design. They are selected on a patient-by-patient basis to strengthen weakened body systems and nourish the constitution of the animal. Some horses may require a diet that incorporates foods such as barley, wheat bran, and alfalfa, as well as watermelon rinds.
Equine Acupuncture Services in Guilford County, NC
Summer can and should be a wonderful relaxing season for you and your horse. Enjoy the sun and warm weather, but keep these tips in mind to protect your equine companions. If you think your horse is displaying signs of anhidrosis, and you want to seek the help of a veterinarian, Carolina Equine Hospital is here to help! Our team offers a full array or services, including acupuncture. Fill out the convenient online form found on our contact page or call us at 336.349.4080 to schedule an appointment today.