Hyperthermia in HorsesHyperthermia (heat exhaustion and heatstroke) is generally not a common problem in horses. Horses usually adapt well to the changing conditions of high humidity and heat.
Symptoms you should look for in the horse are weakness, rapid breathing, panting, trembling or twitching muscles and finally collapse. The horse's temperature and heart rate will usually be higher than normal and he will be sweating profusely.
The onset of heat exhaustion is usually gradual and may occur anytime. Take caution during workouts and exercising your horse in extremely hot conditions. (Read more below under prevention.)
A more serious problem than heat exhaustion is heatstroke.
Whereas heat exhaustion is very gradual, the onset of heatstroke occurs quite rapidly. The horses body temperature is much higher than that of a horse with heat exhaustion and the temp can get as high as (115 F). A vacant and staring expression may or may not be present. The horse STOPS sweating!
During heatstroke your horse which was sweating profusely, rapidly dries. Coat hairs will stand on end; this occurrence indicates a severe breakdown of the horse's cooling system.
In this case it may rapidly lead to death of the horse.
Prevention: A few common-sense horse management guidelines should be in place. The horse should have free access to shade, whether it is a tree or in a stall, shade is a horses best friend during hot and humid weather.
Make sure your horse is in proper condition & physically fit for exercise and work in hot & humid weather conditions. A good rule of thumb is shorter exercise periods with allot of walk breaks in between.
These breaks give the horse's cooling system time to work and you time for observation of the your horse's condition. Try and take advantage of the cooler morning and late evening work-outs.
Access to fresh, clean water is a necessity (unless the horse is hot from exercise).
Remember a horse can loose up to 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 gallons of sweat per work session.
Salt, potassium and chloride levels drop also so keep this in mind. Make sure your horses have free access to a mineral salt block as this will help replace lost minerals and keep the horse in balance.
First Aid: Hyperthermia is a Medical Emergency!
First and foremost it is important to lower your horses body temperature; spray your horse with slightly cool or tepid water. Get the horse into the shade, keep him moving slowly to allow for circulation of air over the his/ her body. (if you have a fan, use it).
Secondly have someone call your veterinarian immediately!
Do not stop and call your veterinarian as this may be fatal for your horse, if you are alone at this time, wait until your horse is out of immediate danger before you leave to phone your veterinarian.
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