Once more, we thank ours vets at The Vet Practice for working with us on creating educational content. This was contributed by Dr. Sabine Ware.
All horses and ponies are susceptible to the heat. However, there are some specific life stages and diseases that make managing the heat a little harder for our equine friends.
Cushing’s Disease is a common hormonal disease of older horses.
It is caused by a growth in the pituitary gland, at the base of the brain. This goes on to affect the adrenal gland, causing an overall rise in cortisol levels within the body.
Cortisol is the “stress” hormone in the body – it affects almost every organ system in the body to some extent, meaning that Cushing’s affects almost every organ in your horses’ body. These horses and ponies are going to be affected by the heat in a variety of different ways, however the below points highlight a couple of the most common causes for distress in these animals.
The skin is considered to be the largest organ of the body. As horses rely so heavily on their skin to control their body temperature, you can imagine the effect Cushing’s has on affected horses and ponies. Often these horses have abnormally thick and long hair coats and an abnormal amount of fat beneath their skin. Both of these factors are going to dramatically affect the horses’ ability to dissipate heat.
Ensure these horses have been clipped if they have not shed their winter coat, and monitor their temperature closely. They are going to require lots of shade and may even require hosing or cooling from you to help them through the heat of the day.
Cushingoid horses also have what is called “Polydipsia” (increased water intake) and “Polyuria” (increased urination). This means they are going to consume and lose more water than your average horse, making them high risk for dehydration. Ensuring these horses and ponies have adequate water is crucial to their survival
Closely related to Cushing’s is EQUINE METABOLIC SYNDROME (aka: INSULIN RESISTANCE)
This disease is caused by abnormal function and metabolism of glucose and insulin.
This causes horses and ponies to become overweight, and often carry a lot of fat over their rumps, necks and body. These animals are going to have a hard time regulating their body temperature as the fat is going to decrease their ability to dissipate heat.
Regardless of whether your horse is IR or not, any overweight horse needs to be properly attended to in extreme conditions. Use some of the methods mentioned in our posts to help keep these guys comfortable and safe.
Photo credit: Digital Kathryn Barrett