Heat Stress in Horses - Learn the Signs

Read below to learn more about how heat stress affects horses, and some tricks for recognising, treating, and preventing heat stress this summer. Always be sure to check with your veterinarian for any questions or concerns regarding your horse's health.



Is my horse suffering heat stress?

Summer is the perfect time to get your horse in peak condition. But as levels of humidity and temperature soar, so do the risks of your horse suffering heat stress. Here's what you need to know to safeguard your horse

THE CAUSE

Your horse's muscles generate heat when he's active, and sweating is his body's cooling mechanism.

High levels of humidity and temperatures can sometimes make the cooling effect of sweating less efficient.

Your horse may become dehydrated, lose electrolytes, or overheat.

The Signs

Signs of Heat Stress in Horses

  • Profuse sweating
  • High rectal temperature
  • Zero interest in water or food
  • Dry and hot skin
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Anxious behavior
  • Rapid breathing
  • Difficulty moving

What To Do

HOSE HIM WITH COLD WATER

Hose him down the neck, shoulders, and under the belly area to increase heat transfer. Scrape excess water off his coat.

Hose horse with cold water

ENCOURAGE HIM TO DRINK WATER

Water must be provided at all times. Lightly worked horses can drink 25-60 litres a day while those working in humid conditions can chug 50-70 litres.

Encourage him to drink cool water

PROVIDE ELECTROLYTES DAILY

Not only will electrolytes help him recover from the salt that is lost in sweat, it will also trigger his thirst, making him want to hydrate more willingly.

Provide electrolytes daily

GIVE HIM ACCESS TO COOL BREEZE

Make sure that he has plenty of ventiliation. Place fans in barn aisles or in front of stables, and keep the barn doors and windows open to let the air flow. 

Give him access to cool breeze

GIVE HIM ACCESS TO SHADE

If your horse is out in the field, ensure he has access to natural or structured shelter to provide shade so he can get out of direct sunlight.

 

Weather Watch

28C or less, work as normal

Less than 28°C

Do work as normal with your horse

28C to 30C proceed with caution

28°C to 30°C

Proceed with caution

30C to 33C skip stressful activities

30°C to 33°C

Skip stressful activities

Over 33C consider cancelling plans

Over 33°C

Consider cancelling your plans

When in doubt, Chill Out!
Always consult with your veterinarian

 


Always consult with your vetrinarian for any questions or concerns regarding your horse's care.

Reference: Ann M. Swinker, Former Extension Horse Specialist

Pennsylvania State University


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