Help your Horse to Cool Down

(Dr. Chris Blevins) Hello, and welcome to Horsin’ Around. I’m Dr. Chris Blevins at Kansas State University Veterinary Health Center. Today we’re going to talk about something that we’re always really concerned with, especially during the summer, and that’s heat stress, and how a horse cools itself, or what we should be concerned with if they’re not cooling themselves adequately. Now, when it’s really hot and really humid outside, horses are sweating, but remember that the sweat needs to evaporate for them to cool properly. How do we decide whether the horse is actually having heat stress? One is they can become very depressed, they have elevated respiration rate, so they are breathing, or almost, kind of, panting, but high respiration rate, and by taking their temperature. How do we do that? We still have to do that rectally and you want to make sure they do not have a fever with that. If it’s greater than 102 degrees Fahrenheit, we do consider that to be a high fever although if you consult with your veterinarian and know the main temperature of your horse, you can decide whether it’s elevated or not based on that. If you’re concerned, maybe the horses overheating, how can we cool them? One of the most common and easiest way to do that is just with cold water. Cold water over the top of the horse and its legs, even its head, and trying to cool it down. Now, you have to remember, whenever you spray a horse down with water, you have to remove that water also, squeegeeing it off of the horse because what’s that water doing? It’s cold, it goes on the animal and then that temperature of that water then elevates. You have to get that water off of the horse so then they can evaporate the rest of it. The other thing is, continually add more cold water then squeegee it off or get it off of the horse, and you can do that quite frequently to try to help with those things in cooling. The other thing that can be done would be to add rubbing alcohol. Isopropyl alcohol over the top of your horse and remember, rubbing alcohol is flammable so be careful on how much you put on your horse and make sure there’s no open flames or other aspects around the horse that could cause them to even catch on fire based on isopropyl alcohol. But the alcohol does help with evaporating and cooling the horse very quickly. Now, the other things we’re always concerned with if a horse is overheating, is maybe they have a long hair coat when they’re not supposed to, maybe they have another disease process, this has a long hair coat, and maybe not sweating, maybe the horse isn’t sweating. In those instances, you need to consult with your veterinarian, do more diagnostics to see if maybe they have other disease like Cushing’s disease that can cause them to overheat. Now with that, with clipping, medication, and isopropyl alcohol or even water, the other thing is to make sure they rehydrate while sweating, and that’s making sure they drink plenty of fresh, cool water. If they’re dehydrated during that state, don’t force water into their mouths and don’t force electrolytes into them unless they’re going to be drinking water during the same time. Again, if you ever have any questions or concerns about heating or overheating of your horse, consult your veterinarian or give us a call here at Kansas State University Veterinary Health Center. I’m Dr. Chris Blevins for Horsin’ Around, and we’ll see you around.

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