Heat-related illnesses are a major concern for horse owners in Arizona, particularly during the hot summer months. By gaining a better understanding of the various risk factors that are involved with heat-related illnesses, you will be better prepared to care for your horse and to take the steps necessary prevent these illnesses from occurring.
One of the key factors that will affect your horse’s susceptibility to heat-related illnesses is its level of fitness. A horse that is well-conditioned is less likely to be affected by heat than your average pasture horse.
The breed of your horse will also influence its sensitivity to heat. Certain breeds and body styles are less likely to be negatively impacted. A horse with a long, lean build who has more surface area relative to its overall mass will be able to naturally cool itself more easily than one that is stout and compact. As such, an Arabian or a Thoroughbred is likely to do better than a draft horse or even a pony.
Of course, temperatures are also a factor. Be sure to give your horse time to acclimate to the changing weather and try to avoid working your horse during the hottest times of the day. Keep in mind that humidity is also a factor, as high humidity prevents sweat from evaporating quickly. Thankfully, humidity is not usually a concern in the Arizona summer, but you should still monitor the overall heat index in order to determine if it is too hot too ride.
Thanks to the high Arizona summer temperatures, you may find yourself having to deal with heat-related illnesses in your horse. One such illness is heat stroke.
What is Heat Stroke?
Heat stroke is a condition that occurs when your horse’s temperature rises to more than 105 degrees Fahrenheit. At these high temperatures, the heat can actually interfere with the cellular process of your horse’s body. Therefore, if you do not intervene in some way, permanent damage or even death are possible.
What are the Symptoms of Heat Stroke in a Horse?
Symptoms of heat stroke can be similar to those seen with heat exhaustion, such as excessive sweating, increased breathing and heart rate, lethargy and a slowed gait. Other signs include:
- Collapsing to the ground
- Mucous membranes that are unusually dark
- Muscle spasms
How Do I Treat Heat Stroke in My Horse?
If you suspect heat stroke with your horse, you should call your vet right away. In addition, you should take steps to cool your horse’s body immediately, such as using ice water to douse the horse’s body. You should specifically target the jugular veins that run along the side of your horse’s neck as well as the visible veins on the inside of the legs to achieve the most effective results.
Caring for a horse in Arizona can be particularly difficult in the summer due to the hot Arizona temperatures. Heat exhaustion is one heat-related issue that can develop. This potentially life-threatening condition occurs when a horse becomes weak and tired due to an increase in body temperature combined with dehydration. Some of the symptoms to watch out for with this condition include:
- Elevated body temperature, typically anywhere from 102 to 105 degrees
- Excessive sweating
- Increase in breathing rate
- Increase in heart rate
- Slowed gait
If your horse is showing any of these signs, it is important for you to get it out of the sun and into a well-ventilated area or in front of a fan. Hosing your horse down with cold water can also be beneficial. When using this method, you should use a sweat scraper to remove the excess water and then immediately repeat the process. This will help to keep the cold water consistently on the horse’s skin. If the water is left on the horse’s skin, it will warm up quickly and be less effective.
Of course, you should also allow your horse to periodically drink small amounts of water, too. You can allow your horse to drink as much as it likes once its vital signs are back down to near normal.
The Last Ride Arizona discusses potential Heat Stroke in Your Horse
Any time your horse is exposed to excessive heat, a heat stroke is possible. While it is most commonly associated with exercising in hot conditions, it can also happen if your horse is simply standing in a hot stall or trailer and is unable to handle the heat. Knowing and recognizing the signs of a heat stroke can be essential in getting your horse the proper treatment it needs in a timely fashion.