It’s a familiar sight for equestrians: you finish your morning training routine, and your young mare or gelding is sweating off their workout.  Their coat glistens as their skin secretes moisture to cool off their flushed body.  Sweat is a horse’s main method for regulating their internal body temperature, and large percent (65-70%) of a horse’s body heat is lost through sweating.1 

It is important that your horse exhibits a sweat response to stimuli such as increased environmental temperature and vigorous exercise.2 When this vital function is disrupted, your horse can have trouble lowering their body temperature if they become overheated. This can be especially problematic for performance horses that are prone to overexerting themselves; however, decreased sweat production can be a problem for any horse as the weather gets hotter in the summer.2 

There are several signs that may indicate that your horse is suffering from anhidrosis. They may act lethargic, seek shade, or breathe very heavily after exercising, on top of having a body temperature higher than the normal range (99.5-101°F).  If this happens, your horse will be at a higher risk for developing heat stroke and hyperthermia.3

The exact cause of anhidrosis is not fully understood yet and the specific contributing factors may vary from horse to horse.  Some research has suggested that atrophied sweat glands or thyroid dysfunction may be involved1  and exhaustion of your horse’s sweat glands through extensive physical activity or heat exposure may also lead to anhidrosis development. One thing that has consistently been linked with equine anhidrosis, is low levels of electrolytes. These elements, including chloride, potassium, and sodium, are essential molecules for your horse’s health and are secreted with sweat.The lack of these nutrients, only add to the problem.

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Some other things to keep in mind to manage the issue if the horse is already showing signs are: to work your horse only in the cooler times of the day, and keep them in a cool, shady stall or arena.  Fans or cooling units in your barn can help if you live in a hot or humid area. Installing misters or hosing your horse with cool water are other good choices.

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1.           Breuhaus BA. Thyroid function in anhidrotic horses. Journal of veterinary internal medicine. 2009;23(1):168-173.

2.           Mayhew IG, Ferguson HO, 2nd. Clinical, clinicopathologic, and epidemiologic features of anhidrosis in central Florida Thoroughbred horses. Journal of veterinary internal medicine. 1987;1(3):136-141.

3.            Gariboldi J. Anhidrosis in Horses. Hagyard Equine Medical Institute Newsletter. Accessed 2/17/2018.

4.            Wilson DC, Corbett AD, Steel C, Pannirselvam R, Bovell DL. A preliminary study of the short circuit current (Isc) responses of sweat gland cells from normal and anhidrotic horses to purinergic and adrenergic agonists. Veterinary dermatology. 2007;18(3):152-160.