What is Anhidrosis, Part 2: Diagnosis and Treatment Options

In part one of our Excel Supplements Anhidrosis series, we discussed what anhidrosis is and the causes behind this condition. Now we’re back for part two, where we will delve into how to diagnose, treat, and manage an anhidrotic horse.

How to Properly Diagnose Anhidrosis

Because there are several other diseases and conditions that can lead to high
respiration and heart rates, it is important to consult your veterinarian first for a proper diagnosis. Your vet will run a full physical exam followed by a diagnostic test for anhidrosis. This test includes “injecting dilutions of terbutaline or epinephrine that should stimulate the sweat glands to release sweat” (The Horse).

Once completed, your vet will measure the amount of sweat your horse produces by using small pads to absorb the sweat for roughly 30 minutes. Your vet will compare the weight of the sweat produced by your horse to the weight of the sweat produced by normal horses. If your horse exhibits little to no sweat production after this test, it is possible he is anhidrotic. The final step of diagnosis may include a blood sample, which will detect the level of electrolytes present in your horse’s blood.



Hosing Horse
Hosing with cool water helps bring down a horses internal temperature.


Proper Management of Anhidrosis

No complete treatments for curing anhidrosis are available on the market today. The only successful approach to curing anhidrosis is to move your horse to a cooler climate. “This helps the horse manage high body temperatures immediately; many horses start sweating again once in a cooler environment” (AAEP). However, this approach is not a reality for most people or their horses. Proper management is the best way to combat anhidrosis and keep your horse happy. Your anhidrotic horse should have a stall, some type of run-in shed, or shade to hide away from the sun.

They should have plenty of clean, cool water available for drinking at all times. If you plan on riding or working your horse, try to do it early in the morning or later in the evening when it’s cooler. Make sure your horse has a fan or a mister in his stall or run-in shed; this will help him cool off. Providing your horse with an electrolyte supplement in his water bucket (the most effective way to give your horse electrolytes!) or in his grain will help as well. A salt lick is also recommended, as it will keep him drinking water.

Proper Treatment of Anhidrosis

Studies done on acupuncture and certain herbal treatment effects in several clinical trials state they do provide some type of relief, though, the effects do not last long. “…the effect lasted less than four weeks after discontinuing treatment” (UFL Vet). These treatments could help your horse manage his anhidrosis, but there are no guarantees. Although there are several supplements on the market that suggest they treat anhidrosis, this may not be the case.

“Many supplement manufacturers claim their products offer relief, but this is anecdotal at best. No research supports this efficacy” (AAEP). Suggestions that dark beers, salts, certain vitamins, and thyroid hormones will help to treat anhidrosis are common. “Most of these are not dangerous, but they also do not appear to improve anhidrosis when evaluated critically” (AAEP). Several medical treatments, including prostaglandins, antihistamines, and adrenocorticotropin hormone, were tried and tested on several anhidrotic horses with unsuccessful results.

There is a plot twist: it is possible that your horse’s anhidrosis will resolve on its own. “This makes identifying a successful treatment even more complicated, because owners often believe it was the chosen treatment that worked when in reality the condition might have spontaneously resolved even without treatment” (The Horse).

Beer for Anhidrosis in Horses

A common known practice to aid in anhidrosis in symptom relief is to put beer in a horses grain. In small quantities, beer is completely safe for a horse to ingest. It is thought that the beer provides a source of yeast and B vitamins, which help the horse begin to sweat again.

Conclusion

There is no known factor for the definitive cause of anhidrosis in horses. Because of this, it can be hard to definitively treat each horse. “Research is ongoing in this area and supports that a signaling mechanism, at the sweat glands’ level causes the acute disorder” (AAEP). Currently, there is an ongoing study at the University of Florida (UF) conducting research on the sweat genes of the horse and their genetic association to anhidrosis. This will hopefully provide vets, horse owners, and scientists with more answers and possible treatments to anhidrosis.

If your horse is diagnosed with anhidrosis, the best way to combat it is through proper management. Failure to correctly manage your anhidrotic horse could lead to the condition worsening and becoming chronic with irreversible effects. If your horse does not live in your backyard, make sure that the employees at your boarding barn are clear on your horse’s specific instructions. And remember to always make sure your horse is properly hydrated and cool on a daily basis!

Sources:

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