Earlier this summer, my new OTTB prospect was diagnosed with anhidrosis.
Anhidrosis is defined as a decreased or inability to sweat, which most commonly manifests in hot and humid climates like Florida and other Gulf Coast states, according to Dr. Martha Mallicote, a veterinarian with the University of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine in Gainesville, Fla. It’s a problem that plagues performance horses because thermoregulation, or the ability to regulate the body’s temperature, is so dependent on sweating. Roughly 2-6 percent of horses are affected by anhidrosis, studies show.
I was devastated when I showed up to the barn one afternoon in July and saw my horse panting away, unable to catch his breath even though he was in his stall and under a fan. There wasn’t a lick of sweat on him.
Luckily, this isn’t my first rodeo with a non-sweater. My Hanoverian broodmare was a chronic non-sweater that required daily maintenance and twice-a-year visits from the chiropractor for acupuncture treatments. With her, we tried injections, supplements (specifically One AC), acupuncture, topical creams, beer in her feed, you name it. One AC was the only thing that worked for her.
Anhidrosis is tricky because there’s no one cure. Each horse responds differently to various treatments. With my warmblood mare, we were convinced the onset of her anhidrosis was related to hormones and her pregnancies. With my young thoroughbred gelding, we’re assuming it’s metabollic, and a recent change in his diet, coupled with a new environment and the intense summer conditions, triggered the change in his body. We’re still looking for a method that works for him.
This bout of non-sweating derailed any and all plans I had for training this summer. It probably will push back what I hoped would be a fall debut at horse shows. My bank account is in the negative for paying for treatments. It’s a bummer. But on the positive side, I’ve tried pretty much each and every method to treat anhidrosis this summer. Here’s a breakdown of each and every remedy I’ve heard of:
Give ’em beer: Add a good a dark beer to each feeding. I’ve heard the darker the better, so we went with Guiness Stout. No results on the OTTB, but it did help my Hanoverian mare on a particularly bad day. Some people say cheap beer works too. Others have told me they’ve tried adding a cup of vodka.
Give ’em supplements: One AC is probably the most common, but there’s Mega Sweat and Let-M-Sweat and the list goes on and on and on and on. I used One AC and Let-M-Sweat with varying and temporary results.
Acupuncture: This is some voodoo magic that I don’t understand, but it honestly had the best results for both of my non-sweaters. The results can be immediate (my gelding was dripping after his second appointment) but sometimes can take several sessions to unlock. It’s a great for maintenance in the cooler months, too.
Electrolytes: This seems like a given, whether it helps your horse sweat or not, in the summertime. It helps replenish nutrients lost during the sweating process. And when my gelding was panting away in his stall, it helped reduce those symptoms and provide some temporary relief. I recommend a high concentrated paste like Jail Break when treating anhidrosis symptoms. EquiWinner also has a line of electrolyte balancing “patches”.
Remove Grain: This may be easier to do in cooler weather states, but one vet recommended taking my horse off a pelleted-grain diet for two weeks as a way to “reset” his system. This would require a heavier forage-based diet and probably a nutrition balancer to accommodate. My horse is hard to keep weight on, so I have not tried this.
Chinese Herbs: There are a variety of Chinese herbs that work as “cooling fluids” to help unlock changes in the body that would stop a horse from sweating. A few of the more common herbs are Eu Yan Sang and New Xiang Ru San. My gelding is currently on these herbs at the recommendation of his acupuncturist.
Detox: When dealing like an ailment like anhidrosis, this could be a good time to consider a full detox for your horse. I removed all supplements and oils from his diet and started a two-week detox treatment which I got from my acupuncturist.