Horses rely on sweating as a means of cooling their body down just like humans do. Anhidrosis or the inability to sweat can lead to hyperthermia and heat stress. This condition can affect horses of all breeds and ages. It can also progress over time or come on quickly. If left untreated/unnoticed the horse could potentially die from overheating.
This condition is very hard to recognize, which makes it that much more dangerous. The exact cause is unknown, though there are some associated conditions that could exacerbate Anhidrosis, such as stress, extreme heat/humidity and/or a sweat gland defect.
The symptoms of Anhidrosis are considerable and, in can be life-threatening. They include:
- Panting after exercise or while standing
- Weakened performance
- Decreased appetite
- Increased heart rate
- Increased respiratory rate
- Occasional, patchy sweat
Diagnosing this condition can be done by a veterinarian injecting epinephrine into the horse to induce sweating. If the horse doesn’t have Anhidrosis then they will begin and continue to sweat while the epinephrine courses through their veins. If they do have Anhidrosis, however, they will not sweat with the epinephrine injection.
Treatment of this condition is an even more difficult task. It requires very close watch of the horse with Anhidrosis and could be costly, depending on the owner’s pasturing/boarding situation. There isn’t any specific treatment that is known to help immediately. Proper management and keeping the animal comfortable are the goals for an owner of a horse with Anhidrosis. IV fluids or even electrolytes in their water have been said to help, as the horse will need replenishing of some sort with their body being overheated. You could also move the horse to a cooler environment or well-ventilated stall. Changing the horse’s exercise schedule could also be helpful, for example: You could change the horse’s exercise session to be in the early morning hours or in the late evening hours to catch those cooler hours during the day. Body clipping the horse could also help to keep him cooler. Night turnout is also helpful, as long as you have a horse that is ok with being outside by itself or if you have a “buddy” horse to keep pastured with the horse with Anhidrosis. If the horse is used to being in their stall at night then this option might not be ideal.
If you notice that your horse isn’t sweating after a hard workout or if you’re aware that your horse has Anhidrosis (diagnosed by your veterinarian) then you can always use cold water therapy. Use a pond or stream or even a hose to cool your horse down. When doing this make sure that you’re scraping away the water that is in your horse’s coat so that you’re continuously putting cooler water in contact with their skin. Use your hand to scrape if you have to.
Unfortunately this condition cannot be prevented, so as a horse owner you must be continuously aware of the condition that your horse is in; whether they are in the pasture/paddock, stall or underneath you. Even though this condition is somewhat rare in the Northeastern area, it’s something that you should be aware of and look out for. If you notice that your horse is acting like they’re overheated and exhibiting any of the symptoms that were mentioned above, please give us a call at the River Road Veterinary Clinic and we’d be happy to help you out!