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Medical Index
First Posted: Feb 5, 2013
Feb 5, 2013

Hypothermia In Horses

Hypothermia is a condition in which core temperature drops below the required temperature for normal metabolism and body functions through biologic homeostasis or thermoregulation. If exposed to cold and the internal mechanisms are unable to replenish the heat that is being lost, a drop in core temperature occurs. As body temperature decreases, characteristic symptoms occur such as shivering and mental confusion.

Hypothermia is the opposite of hyperthermia which is present in heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Hyperthermia is elevated body temperature due to failed thermoregulation that occurs when a body produces or absorbs more heat than it dissipates. Extreme temperature elevation then becomes a medical emergency requiring immediate treatment to prevent disability or death. Common causes include heat stroke and adverse reactions to drugs. The former is an acute hyperthermia caused by exposure to excessive heat, or combination of heat and humidity, that overwhelms the heat-regulating mechanisms of the body causing uncontrolled elevation of body temperature. The latter is a relatively rare side effect of many drugs, particularly those that affect the central nervous system. Malignant hyperthermia is a rare complication of some types of general anesthesia. Hyperthermia differs from fever in that the body's temperature set point remains unchanged.

The following links have excellent articles about hypothermia in horses: Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue, Inc., TLAER, Accidental Hypothermia in the Horse, A Review for Emergency Responders* and Accidental Hypothermia in Horses

For More Information on Dehydration:

Electrolytes/Dehydration and Horses
Horse Vital Signs
Vital Signs Horse
Way Too Hot to Trot

Medical Index