Richard Wheeler, DVM, was born in the U.K. and graduated from the Royal Veterinary College, London, in 2002. Dr. Wheeler then completed a two-year internship at Greenwood, Ellis and Partners (now Newmarket Equine Hospital) in Newmarket. In 2005, he moved to Wellington, Florida, to join Palm Beach Equine Clinic and he became a partner in 2009. Dr. Wheeler’s primary concentration is equine sports medicine. He is an FEI Veterinary Delegate for Show Jumping and Dressage and has authored several published articles on the topic of equine sports medicine. Dr. Wheeler has served on the board of the USHJA Horse and Rider Advocates Committee. In 2016, Dr. Wheeler became a founding director of the Sport Horse Research Foundation. Dr. Wheeler and his wife, Jessica, have two children. Do you have a question you want Dr. Wheeler to answer? Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have noticed that my horse isn’t sweating. After taking him to the vet, we discovered that my horse has anhidrosis. Aside from medication, is there anything I can do to help him?
Anhidrosis is defined as the absence of adequate sweat leading to problems with temperature regulation. It is a condition that is seen in hot and humid areas of the world. Horses can be affected in varying degrees. Clinical signs range from mild performance reduction to severe hyperthermia. In extreme cases, this can be life threatening.
A diagnosis of equine anhidrosis is generally made following a review of the medical history along with a clinical exam. In some cases, your veterinarian may take samples for laboratory analysis to aid with diagnosis and treatment.
Management of equine anhidrosis will depend on the geographical location of the horse and the severity and discipline in which the horse competes. Horses with partial anhidrosis may be managed with simple alterations to their daily regime. These alterations may include exercising during cooler times of the day, staying under a cover, providing constant access to cool water, utilizing fans and misters, body clipping and cold hosing. Some horses will respond well to electrolyte supplementation and there are also several commercially available supplements designed for “non-sweaters.” Some horses even respond well to a can of beer in the feed! While I believe it is important to make these environmental changes, in some cases more involved medical therapy is indicated and in extreme cases the only viable option is to move the horse to an area of lower environmental temperature and humidity.
Could you provide key points on what we should look for to make sure we are getting a good vet check for our horses?
I have been involved with a great variety of pre-purchase examinations, some involving only a simple clinical examination while others involve advanced imaging modalities including nuclear scintigraphy and MRI. The first recommendation I would make is to work with a professional trainer or agent who is experienced, reputable, well-versed in your discipline and equine transactions, and who understands your goals and intentions for the horse.
When engaging a veterinarian to perform a pre-purchase examination, I recommend seeking someone who is familiar with your desired discipline and goals. The scope of any examination will depend on several factors, including the discipline the horse is used for. Additionally, the age and experience of the horse, prior competition record and cost of the horse may influence the needed scope of a vet check. It is important to have open communication with your veterinarian so they can understand your intentions and acceptable level of risk.
After I compete with my horse, are there things I can do to ensure his comfort? He’s an athlete just like a football or basketball player. They sit in ice baths or get massages to ensure they are recovering from their sport and in the best shape to compete again. What can I do for my horse?
Your reference to human sports medicine is a good one and I have spent a lot of time with human doctors and therapists debating this subject. While there are a variety of differing opinions about how to best insure that your horse is comfortable to prepare for another competition, right now there is no single objective answer. This is in part why I founded The Sport Horse Research Foundation, to fund scientific research and education that will answers these questions. One of the Sport Horse Research Foundation’s main goals is to identify the risk factors for injury in equine sports and provide evidence-based research regarding the prevention of injury to optimize the performance of the sport horse.
Currently there are a plethora of options available and my advice is to work closely with your trainer and veterinarian to identify the specific needs for your horse. We all have areas of weakness and so do our equine partners. In my practice, we spend a lot of time and effort getting to know our patients so we can tailor a program specifically to each individual horse.
Generally speaking, I think cooling the lower legs and specific areas of known weakness have good scientific basis in the immediate post-competition phase. Following that, techniques that increase blood flow to the soft tissues will aid in recovery.
Returning to my original point: You need a team approach with your trainer, veterinarian, farrier and support staff to create a program for your horse. As they say, “Teamwork makes the dream work!”
The weather has been erratic. It’s been cold one day and hot the next. I’m so worried that my horse is going to colic. Is there anything I can do to prevent this from happening and make the varying weather less of an issue for my horse?
Horses like a consistent regime. In their natural state, horses are foragers who eat regularly, while being active. During times of extreme weather, it can be a challenge to keep their environment consistent. I believe the following are the best steps you can take to try to prevent colic during extreme weather: adequate hydration, regular feeding and consistent exercise.
Dehydration has been shown to be a very important risk factor for colic. When the weather is hot, the horse’s water intake may increase as a result. Horses have been observed to drink less water if it is very cold, and of course frozen water buckets are not good news. Our job, as their caretakers, is to always provide adequate fresh water at as consistent a temperature as possible.
Weather changes can also interfere with exercise. Again, our job is to keep the program as routine as possible. When available and practical, turnout is a great option to provide exercise for horses.
Feeding can be very horse-specific and what your horse specifically needs may be something to ask your personal veterinarian who is familiar with your horse. Factors to be considered are: performance level, geographic location and program. Points to consider and talk to your vet about are adjusting feed intake depending on intensity of exercise, the potential for electrolyte supplementation, adding water to feed and/or forage if water intake is reduced, and the need for additional supplements or medications, such as probiotics or anti-ulcer medication. My general philosophy is to keep things simple. Basic good horsemanship is key.