With heatwave conditions across the continent, many horses are at risk of developing Anhydrosis aka “The Puffs”.

This is a very serious condition where the horse is unable to sweat normally, which means it is unable to cool its body, maintain hydration and pH balance, or properly excrete metabolic toxins.

Horses with the “Puffs” will pant like a dog and can become quite distressed with a high respiratory rate. The hair will stand up, the skin will become dry and frequently itchy skin conditions will result.   Often they don’t drink enough water.

The condition often occurs when horses are moved from the more temperate southern climates to the hot and humid areas in the north, especially Northern Australia and the Asian countries.

There are degrees of Anhydrosis. There are plenty of horses in the more temperate climates who do not sweat freely and who also do not drink enough. These horses are prime candidates for developing puffs with the excessively high temperatures and humid conditions currently being experienced in many areas. Particularly if they are put under stress by inappropriate work in hot conditions.

Untitled1In heatwave high humidity conditions, horses are at risk of developing Anhydrosis regardless of where they are geographically. To prevent this do not work horses, ensure they have access to shade and plenty of cool, clean water and monitor them regularly. Remove grains from rations and increase hay. Grain requires more energy to digest so raises core body temperature.

Provide salt in the form of Himalayan Rock Salt lumps so they can regulate their own intake.

Dosing with electrolytes is not recommended, as these are used to replace salts lost in sweating, so if the horse is not sweating, then it does not make sense to do this. And it could be harmful as it will overload the kidneys with excess Potassium in particular.


I have been providing herbal treatments to manage this condition for many years with a high degree of success. Ideally treatment should start before the hot weather starts and continue through until the weather improves. But at the moment anyone who suspects their horses are anhydrotic should seek immediate treatment.

A combination of herbs to stimulate the sweat glands in the skin, adrenal glands, kidneys and water consumption are utilised plus flower essences for stress and shock such as Rescue Remedy.

The liquid herbs are syringed orally for quick absorption.


Careful attention to management is important. For example competing in very hot weather is a bad idea.

To rug or not to rug in heatwave conditions is controversial. The skin of the horse can function better without rugs that is for sure. The main problem is that these days it is difficult to find rugs made from natural materials which allow the horse’s skin to breathe.

I use white air flow combos which are cotton mix, which help reflect the sun and thus keep temperatures down to some extent.

Stabling with fans during the day works well but if you don’t have those kind of facilities good shade trees are the answer, and cold hosing in the late afternoon, or more often if necessary.

The method of hosing is important – always start at the bottom of the legs at the hind quarter, around the tail, then under belly and sides, then the forequarters, head and neck, and lastly the top-line, scrape out well immediately, then repeat the top line and scrape out well quickly.

© Victoria Ferguson 26 Jan 17