Summer Swelter: Dealing with Anhidrosis in Horses

The hot climate of the southern United States can exacerbate anhidrosis in horses—that is, their inability to sweat. Short of moving north, what can you do to help a horse suffering from anhidrosis? Let’s break it down.

What is Anhidrosis in Horses?

Anhidrosis in horses (like in humans) is a decreased ability to sweat when body temperatures rise. Sometimes a horse just sweats less, or sweats only in certain areas; in the most extreme cases, the horse isn’t able to sweat at all.

Since they regulate their body temperature through sweating, anhidrosis in horses can be a dangerous condition—particularly in hot climates.

As a horse owner, you may find that a horse you thought was completely healthy suddenly stops sweating. That’s because anhidrosis in horses can come on gradually or acutely. Other things that may indicate anhidrosis include dry, flaky skin on the forehead, hair loss, fatigue, lack of appetite and decreased water consumption.

Managing Anhidrosis in Horses

The only known way to successfully treat anhidrosis in horses is to move to a cooler climate. Let’s face it. That’s not realistic for most of us. So if you have a horse with this condition—especially if you’re in a state like Texas or Florida—you need to carefully manage him when the temperatures rise.

During the heat of the day, your horse should be in the shade. You can do this by keeping him in his stall or even a shaded paddock. Consider adding fans, misters or (if out of the barn) a sprinkler.

Make sure you have plenty of cool, clean drinking water for your horse at all times. You may even consider adding an electrolyte supplement like HydraBoost to your horse’s diet to help him maintain the right concentration of sodium, chloride, potassium, and magnesium.

Reschedule exercise to the early morning or late evening, when air temperatures are a bit cooler. Try dampening your horse’s coat with water before he begins exercising, and be sure to give him plenty of time to cool down afterward. Of course, keep a close eye on his breathing; if it seems labored or heavy, cut the session short.

Help Keep Your Horse Healthy

Although there isn’t a cure for anhidrosis in horses, it can be managed. With the tips listed above, you should be able to keep your horse comfortable and healthy without relocating.