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Equine Health Resource

Heat Exhaustion after Intense Exercise

Code Red - Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours

Code Red - Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours

    After intense exercise, a horse’s ability to regulate heat may decompensate for a variety of reasons. A horse whose temperature has been raised during exercise may not be able to cool down quickly enough due to a hot and humid environment that inhibits sweating, or their ability to sweat may be impaired (anhidrosis).

    Heat exhaustion, heat stroke and sun stroke all refer to variations on this syndrome, which most commonly happens to competition horses that have exercised intensely in hot and humid weather. It can also happen to horses that have been standing or turned out in intense hot sun without access to shade and/or decreased access to a fresh water source.

    Horses with heat exhaustion have usually suffered from severe fluid and electrolyte loss as part of this syndrome. They reach a point of shock in which their bodies cannot recover without intensive veterinary care. This condition may coincide with muscle problems (exertional rhabdomyolysis or “tying-up”), abdominal pain (colic) and other conditions.

    Do not force the horse to walk, unless necessary. Offer your horse water and immediately call your vet, who may advise that you give paste electrolytes to stimulate thirst or give your horse a bath before they arrive.

    Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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