Heatstroke in Horses

These information sheets are provided for your interest. They should not replace veterinary advice from your veterinary surgeon.

Whilst every effort is taken to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information provided, your specific circumstances must be discussed before advice can be given.

Heatstroke in Horses

Heatstroke is a major issue that affects not only humans, but also horses. It occurs when the body temperature increases above the point where the individual is able to cool itself back down. Any horse undergoing hard, fast or strenuous work is at risk of heatstroke, and this risk is further compounded in hot weather conditions. Some horses have been known to suffer from heatstroke from standing in poorly ventilated stables or trailers for extended periods of time. Unfit, overweight horses and those who have not had time to acclimatise appropriately are also at risk.

Symptoms

  • Raised temperature of over 41oC
  • Dry + tacky gums
  • Extended skin pinch
  • Weak or fast pulse
  • Abnormal behaviour including depression and lethargy
  • Uncontrollable shaking
  • Collapse

Treatment

If you suspect that your horse is suffering from heatstroke then it is important to cool it down as quickly as possible. Apply cool water to as much of the body as is practical and stand the horse in the shade where there is a breeze. You can give the horse electrolytes, but most importantly ensure that there is a supply of plain water. If your horse is refusing to drink then please contact your vet so that we may administer some fluids via a nasogastric tube. Alternatively, intravenous fluids can be administered in severe cases.

Prevention

  1. Avoid strenuous exercise between 11am and 3pm.
  2. Ensure the horse has plenty of shady areas in which to stand.
  3. Avoid leaving horses in horseboxes for extended periods.
  4. Ensure adequate ventilation in stables.
  5. Allow small drinks prior to and during exercise.
  6. Soak the hay and give sloppy feeds to ensure your horse gets some extra water.
  7. Give electrolytes prior to any strenuous exercise.

We hope everyone enjoys the lovely weather, but do advise caution when exercising on particularly hot days.

Ashley Stewart BVetMed MRCVS