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Management of Heat Stress in Horse

by Yadav Sharma Bajagai

Any physiological, metabolic, behavioral and performance abnormality in animals due to inability of thermoregulatory mechanism to regulate normal body temperature during high ambient temperature can be referred to as heat stress. Heat stress is not only the concern of only tropical region but also a matter of major apprehension in sub-tropical and temperate regions too as frequent spells of high ambient temperature and gradual rise in global atmospheric temperature is being experienced in many of the temperate regions of the world due to global climate change.

Heat stress is one of the greatest climatic challenges faced by horses affecting animal health and welfare in the area of the world where ambient temperature often exceeds upper critical temperature. 

Principle of management of heat stress during hot weather is to hasten the heat loss and avoid the heat gain as far as possible.



Management to hasten heat loss: 
  • Convective heat loss from animal body can be accelerated effectively through fans, mister, water sprinkler and natural ventilation in the shed.
  •  In a research in the University of Illinois, horses bathed with cold water during strenuous exercise time were better able to cope with heat stress.
  •  Providing adequate access of drinking water is crucial to maintain body temperature during hot weather. Electrolytes should be supplemented as sweating during hot weather may result electrolyte imbalance.
  •  Heavy coats should be clipped but not too close to the skin. 


Management to avoid excessive heat gain:
  • Housing or shed should be designed with efficient ventilation to prevent animals from extremes of climates.
  •  Radiant heat gain can be avoided through the use of shade during hot weather condition.
  •  Exercise or work or any of the handling should be scheduled during cool part of the day.
  •  Feeding should be done during cooler part of the day (preferably afternoon and evening)  to avoid heat gain during hot day condition.
  • Reduction in the energy content of the diet help to reduce metabolic heat production during thermal stress. 
  • Addition of electrolytes salt like sodium chloride in the diet may be beneficial during thermal stress.