Horse First Aid for Heat Stroke and Sun Burn

Overheated horse that is sweating and in danger of dehydration and heatstroke.
Overheated horse that is sweating and in danger of dehydration and heatstroke.

First aid for heat stroke in the horse

Heat stroke is an emergency situation brought on by a combination of too much exercise and hot, humid weather.

Caution should be used in exercising or working the horse so heat build-up does not become critical.

Overweight or unfit horses are especially affected. If your horse suffers from heat stroke, take the following steps:

  1. Immediately move the horse to a cool, shady area and call your veterinarian.
  2. Spray or apply cool water to the horse's legs and body, or drape towels soaked in cool water over the horse and around the legs, especially in areas that exhibit large veins.
  3. In a critical situation, ice packs may be placed on the horse's legs.
  4. Use fans to circulate air if available.
  5. Allow the horse to drink small amounts of cool water at frequent intervals, but do not allow drinking of a large quantity of water.
  6. Walking the horse slowly in a shady area will help evaporate the heat from the horse's body.

Knowing your horse's normal vital signs is invaluable in recognizing the seriousness of any case of heat stroke and can serve as a guide to prevent over-exercising the horse when the weather is hot and humid.

When the sum of the ambient temperature in Fahrenheit decrees and the relative humidity approach 150, caution should be used in exercising or working the horse so heat build-up does not become critical.

First aid for equine sunburn

Although prevention is the best policy when it comes to horses getting sunburned, there will be times when your horse will need first aid to reduce inflammation and pain and help the sunburned areas to recover properly before they become infected.

Although all horses are susceptible to sunburn, those with light skin, lips, ears and coats are especially susceptible.

Steps to take when your horse is sunburned:

  1. Move the horse to a quiet shady area or into a barn or stall.
  2. Provide plenty to water to prevent dehydration.
  3. If the sunburn is severe, check with your veterinarian as to the best course of treatment.
  4. If the sunburn is mild, several good options for treatment are available:  Apply a soothing coat of vitamin E diluted with mineral oil over the sunburn area. Apple cider vinegar is also a useful treatment for sunburn in horses. Apply the apple cider vinegar to the affected area several times a day as necessary fro healing to take place.
  5. Various commercial sunburn ointments for children and adults may also be applied to sunburned areas of the horse.
  6. Some veterinarians suggest including flaxseed in the horse's diet and also using flaxseed oil to treat sunburn since it provides overall help with a healthy coat in a horse.
  7. Observe the horse carefully during recuperation to make sure that the sunburn has not affected the over-all health of the horse.

Again, prevention of sunburn by using a long fly mask, sunblock products or shampoos and conditioners that provide sunburn protection is highly recommended.

About the Author

EquiMed Staff

EquiMed staff writers team up to provide articles that require periodic updates based on evolving methods of equine healthcare. Compendia articles, core healthcare topics and more are written and updated as a group effort. Our review process includes an important veterinarian review, helping to assure the content is consistent with the latest understanding from a medical professional.