Heat Stroke in Horses

Heat Stroke in Horses


Hot, sunny summer days are some of the best times to ride outside with your horse and are often the peak of competition season.  Most horses are very tolerant to heat because, like humans, they sweat all over their body to help regulator their body temperature.  However, horses are just as sensitive to heat stoke as people so it is best to take it easy when the temperatures are soaring.  A horse’s normal body temperature is around 100°F.  Heat stroke occurs when their temperature gets up to 105° F.  If a horse’s body temperature gets that high, they are at risk of brain or other organ damage.


When the weather is hot and humid, make sure your horse has plenty of access to cool shaded areas and fresh water.  If you notice that your horse is restless, panting or looking for a cool place to lay down, make sure you get them out of the sun to a cooler area and offer them some water.  More serious signs of heat exhaustion are an increased heart rate, lethargy, excessive sweating, drooling and staggering.  Once your horse’s heat stress gets to that point they are at risk of collapsing.  The first thing you should do is bring your horse’s temperature down by running cool water over their skin.  Slowly bring their temperature down until they start to perk up then call the vet immediately so the vet can provide fluids and help stabilize their temperature.  Your horse should be feeling normal again in a couple of days.  Electrolyte supplements will also help normalize your horse’s body after excessive sweating.






Hydration effects on physiological strain of horses during exercise-heat stress.


Exercises in hot and humid environment caused liver injury in a rat model.


Dexamethasone improves heat stroke-induced multiorgan dysfunction and damage in rats.


Heat stress illness hospitalizations – environmental public health tracking program, 20 states, 2001-2010.


Effects of heat stress on ocular blood flow during exhaustive exercise.


Heat-induced illness.