For the September/October 2007 issue of Gallop Magazine (www.gallopmag.co.uk) we produced an article on Obesity in Horses (see Diseases/Obesity section of the website).
In this article we mentioned a condition called Hyperthermia, a condition where the horses body literally overheats because excessive heat cannot escape from its body. This happens particularly in overweight horses because the fat acts as an insulator.
We have a client, previously registered with another practice, whose horse died of this condition. They have very kindly allowed us to use this case study in the hope that it will highlight the dangers to other horse owners.
The picture you can see of Perl was taken on the Wednesday at the Royal Welsh Show. Perl died in transit going home the following Saturday. As you can see from the picture Perl was an absolutely stunning horse and not particularly overweight but carrying “show weight”.
This article is distressing and upsetting but we have featured it, in the clients own words, in the hope that people will grasp the seriousness of the situation and understand the reasons why we continually raise the issue of overweight horses and ponies with clients.
Autopsy Article for Gallop Jan/Feb Issue 2007
“We have just heard the results of the autopsy on Geler Perl, which were that Perl had several haemorrhages throughout her body, a swollen brain and skeletal disorders.
We asked our vet to explain the findings to us in ‘laymans’ terms and to be quite honest we were totally shocked to find that at the end of the day it was down to the heat.
As we went through the principle causes with our vet it became quite apparent that there were several reasons why Perl had died.
Perl was up to the weight that she needed to be to attend the Royal Welsh Show. She was not grossly fat but was carrying “show weight”. When we think about weight we often automatically worry about laminitis. The effect that this extra weight had on Perl would have never entered our heads. It had acted as an insulator, not allowing her inner body temperature to cool.
Another factor, which was high on the list, was the fact that she had been kept in a very low, small stable all week at the show. The roof consisted off metal cladding, which in effect made them operate like pressure cookers. Perl never demonstrated any signs of sweating or discomfort.
The bottom line was that this experience had been the equivalent to placing a dog in a very, very hot car, with the same devastating affects, hence the skeletal changes.
With hindsight we would have done quite a few things differently in the knowledge that we now have.
We would have made known our concerns about the roofing on the stable to the stable manager and the fact it was so small.
We would have hosed Perl down with cold water on a regular basis to keep her inner temperature at an acceptable level.
We are not looking to apportion any blame, it was just one of those freak occurrences, but we feel sure that if owners follow a few simple rules a recurrence would be avoided.
We would ask everyone, including judges, to take into consideration the weight of show animals and not have them too fat.
Please remember in very hot weather to hose them down, even if they are not illustrating signs of sweating, as was the case with Perl.
We will carry the burden of guilt for some time to come as we feel totally responsible for Perl and we would hate for you to have to lose your best friend as we did.”