Horses that are unable to sweat are said to have Anhidrosis. Sweating is the body’s way of cooling, excreting waste and balancing hydration. Without the ability to sweat a horse is unable to self-regulate its body temperature, which can lead to a body temperature above normal, heat exhaustion, heat stroke or, in some cases, death. Other names for Anhidrotic horses are drycoat, nonsweaters or puffers, the last because they breathe rapidly for prolonged periods of time trying to cool themselves unsuccessfully.
Symptoms of Anhidrosis are typically
• Exercise intolerance
• Dull hair coat
• Dry and sometimes itchy skin
• Increased respiratory rate/flaring nostrils (panting like a dog)
• Resting body temperature higher than normal
• Seeking shade or their cool stall
• Weight loss and loss of appetite
• In some horses, low thyroid has been a factor
In Chinese Medicine, Anhidrosis is generally categorized as “Summer Heat”, which is considered a pathogenic factor that dries body fluids and damages Qi. Herbal formulas and acupuncture have been successful in bringing balance back to the anhidrotic horse. Each horse is different, so treatments using acupuncture points and herb formulas need to be tailored to the individual horse. It is important for the horse to be seen and a full case-history be taken so that the practitioner can discern what protocol will work best for the horse.
However, there are some positive actions, and useful advice owners can follow:
Move the horse to a cooler environment, if it is an option.
During the heat of the day have fans with misters in the stall, turn horse out at night
Hose-down with lukewarm water, and scrape well
Feed grass hay only, avoid grain, as it can be heating
Avoid electrolytes. These are used when your horse is sweating, so adding these can actually overload your horse’s system. Instead provide a whole-food electrolyte, which can help support the horse with an easily absorbable form of minerals. Look for ingredients like Celtic Sea salt, Himalayan salt, and a small amount of a sea vegetable, like bladderwrack. (BioStar makes a nice one here)
Reduce stresses on the horse by limiting the following activities:
Multiple vaccines (consider titers)
Other steps you can take to minimize stress include:
Changing to a whole food diet that is easier assimilated by your horse, focus on foods that are cooling in essence and clear heat such as chia seed, barley, papaya, watermelon, banana and cucumbers. Avoiding GMO foods and processed foods that cause extra stress and increase heat in the body, such as corn, molasses, soy and canola.
Addressing any body discomfort, hoof balance, sore muscles, and GI imbalances
Incorporating flower essences including Rescue Remedy or CrisEase to balance emotional stress
Providing plenty of cool fresh water
Providing Himalayan salt blocks
Other possible remedies
A supplement that provides L-tyrosine, an amino acid that is supportive to the endocrine system, can sometimes help support your horse.
An old-time remedy for anhidrosis was to give your horse a beer a day, however beer is not what it used to be. Now beer has quite a few unhealthy ingredients including food dyes, GMO corn syrup, concentrated pesticides, and some animal derived products. A horse with anhidrosis does not need the added stress of dealing with more toxins for his already compromised body to process. If you are going to try this, look for a dark beer made with organic ingredients.
By looking at the horse holistically and providing thoughtful support, owners and caretakers may find that many horses can recover their ability to regulate their body temperature through sweating.