What are Anhidrosis?
According to research, up to six percent of horses have anhidrosis. Heat stroke is the most serious concern with anhidrosis so you should make sure your horse is moved to a cooler area until the veterinarian comes to visit. A working or racing horse will not be able to perform at all until the anhidrosis is taken care of because your horse is not able to regulate body temperature like other horses. Working your horse at night during the coolest days of the year is important in this case. It does not take much for your horse to become overheated without the ability to sweat.
Anhidrosis in horses is a condition in which your horse is unable to sweat like normal. This may just be a partial or complete lack of sweat, but they are thought to be caused by the same problem, which doctors are still not sure of. This condition usually only affects animals in hot and humid areas of the world such as southern United States, Ceylon, Burma, Trinidad, Panama, and Puerto Rico. The areas in the United States that have the most incidences of anhidrosis are Texas, Florida, and Louisiana. Without sweating, your horse’s body cannot eliminate the body heat and the horse will usually pant to cool himself, but this does not work as well as sweating, so your horse will get overheated easily. If your horse’s body temperature goes over 106 degrees Fahrenheit, brain damage occurs and death can follow.
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Symptoms of Anhidrosis in Horses
Anhidrosis may be partial or complete, but the side effects are about the same. The most often reported include:
- Sweating a large amount for a few days and then ceasing to sweat at all
- Flared nose
- Lying down in a cool area
- Splashing themselves with water
- Rapid breathing
- High body temperature
- Thinning of the hair around the eyes, neck, and shoulders
- Excessive drinking or eating
- Rough hair coat and skin
Partial anhidrosis is a condition in which your horse can sweat a little when hot, but not enough to completely cool down.
Complete anhidrosis means your horse is unable to sweat at all, which means it is easy for your pet to get heat stroke, seizures, and eventually it will cause death if not treated.
Causes of Anhidrosis in Horses
The cause for the condition is still unknown, but there are several speculative reasons for anhidrosis, which are:
- Thyroid gland disorders
- Lack of electrolytes in the body (from vomiting or diarrhea)
- Exhausted or abnormal sweat glands
- Moving your horse to a hot climate from a cooler one
Diagnosis of Anhidrosis in Horses
The first thing needed is a complete physical of the horse by a veterinary professional that specializes in horses. This physical examination usually includes heart rate, respirations, body temperature, weight, blood pressure, body condition scale based on your horse’s weight, lameness check, and a quick look at your horse’s skin, eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. In addition, the veterinarian may have you or the veterinary technician take your horse on a walk around the yard. This is the best way to evaluate muscle and joint function as well as checking for sweat afterward. Underlying diseases that could be hiding should be easily found with laboratory tests such as a complete blood count (CBC), chemical panel analysis, fungal and bacterial cultures, liver enzyme check, and electrolyte level panel.
Another interesting test that is done by most (if not all) veterinarians use is giving your horse several injections of a medication that causes sweating, called terbutaline. This medication is supposed to stimulate your pet’s sweat glands so the veterinarian can determine whether your horse has anhidrosis and whether it is partial or complete. Also, a skin biopsy can be helpful in diagnosing the cause in some conditions. Finally, radiographs (x-rays), MRI, CT scans, and possibly an ultrasound may be performed to rule out any underlying problems that could be causing the lack of sweat.
Treatment of Anhidrosis in Horses
There are numerous treatments for anhidrosis, but many are not successful. Because of this, a lot of the treatments your veterinarian suggests can be experimental. Some of the treatments that are reportedly the most effective are:
Electrolytes given on a regular basis during hot weather (above 80 degrees Fahrenheit) are helpful in keeping your horse hydrated, but does not do much for the high body temperature.
Acupuncture is a controversial treatment where a special doctor (acupuncturist) inserts tiny needles into certain areas of your horse.
Moving your horse to a cooler environment such as a cool barn with a fan or a wading pool and restricting any activity during the hottest times of the day are the best ideas.
Recovery of Anhidrosis in Horses
Recovery is usually quick and easy if you can detect this condition before your horse gets heat stroke. This consists of cooling down your horse right away by moving to a cooler area either on your property or a stable. Some horse owners actually use air conditioning in the barns for their equine companionsFIN during the hot season. Once you cool down your horse you have to make sure this does not happen again by providing plenty of fresh water, shade, and fans in the barn for circulation.