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How To Detect Heat Stroke In Horses

Someone is holding an umbrella over the horse's head

As the summer heat ramps up, it’s more important than ever to keep your livestock cool. Horses are particularly susceptible to heat stroke, especially if exercising in hot temperatures. Here’s what you need to know about recognizing, treating and preventing heat stroke in horses.

What’s heat stroke?

Heat stroke occurs when a horse’s body overheats due to prolonged exposure to high temperatures and humidity. Many factors can lead to heat stroke in horses, including inadequate hydration, poor ventilation, intense physical exertion and lack of shade. It can result in severe health complications and even death if not promptly addressed.

Heat stroke can affect any horse but is especially common in older, obese and out-of-shape horses. Young foals also tend to be more prone to heat stroke and dehydration.


On very hot and humid days, even the best-conditioned horse can suffer from heat stroke in a short amount of time. The most common symptoms of heat stroke in horses include:

  • Rapid breathing

  • Accelerated pulse

  • Increased body temperature

  • Stumbling

  • Weakness

  • Refusal to eat or work

  • Hot skin

  • Sunken eyes

If you notice any of these symptoms, immediately contact your veterinarian. Then, move your horse to a shaded area and wet its body with cool water. If possible, have a fan blowing on your horse and provide it with access to fresh water until the veterinarian arrives. Applying rubbing alcohol along your horse’s back and neck can also help cool it down.

The veterinarian will likely give your horse some intravenous fluids and electrolytes to improve its condition. Horses that have experienced heat stroke must get plenty of rest and avoid exercise for a minimum of three to five days.

Tips for keeping your livestock cool in summer

You can help prevent heat stroke in your horse by:

  • Providing constant access to clean, fresh water

  • Offering shaded areas or shelter from direct sunlight

  • Ensuring proper ventilation in stables and during transportation

  • Avoiding exercising during the hottest times of the day

  • Trimming or clipping horses with long hair

  • Providing electrolyte supplements as recommended

Recognizing and preventing heat stroke in horses is crucial to safeguard their well-being. It helps avoid serious health risks, organ failure and even death.

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