Anemia is a condition that affects the amount of hemoglobin your horse has in its blood. Hemoglobin is a protein that serves the function of transporting oxygen through the blood. Anemia can have several different causes. It is easily treatable once it is diagnosed. Symptoms of anemia in horses include poor physical condition and athletic performance, a loss of appetite, weakness, depression, lethargy, poor coat condition or heart murmur. If left untreated, anemia can cause death.
The underlying cause of your horse's anemia will dictate the type of treatment your veterinarian will prescribe for it. Anemia can occur in horses due to several different conditions, including a severe accident or trauma that causes blood loss, prolonged exposure to blood-sucking insects, and parasites such as worms and ticks, or a nutritional deficiency. Fortunately, a qualified veterinarian should be able to diagnose and treat your horse's anemia effectively and quickly once the condition is brought to his attention.
If your horse has become anemic due to significant blood loss caused by an injury or surgery, your veterinarian will need to locate the source of the bleeding and stop it. In some cases, this involves treating gastric ulcers and internal parasites. Once the bleeding has become controlled, your veterinarian will likely prescribe your horse a diet that contains a lot of protein and iron as well as an iron supplement. As your horse recovers from his injury, his hemoglobin levels should recover as well if he is healthy and in otherwise good condition, with adequate nutrition. Anemia that is caused by poor nutrition is the easiest type of anemia to treat. Typically this condition requires simply changing to an adequate diet.
Insects and Parasites
Anemia that is caused by significant blood loss due to parasites or insects can be slightly more difficult to treat because the horse may need to be removed from the situation where she is being exposed to these pests. If the problem is due to ticks, mosquitoes or other blood-sucking insects, the area needs to be treated for the insects until there is no longer an issue. To speed the horse's recovery, have her removed from the area to a place where these pests are not a factor. If the horse has internal parasites, worm her with a wormer that is specifically prescribed to treat the type of worms the horse has. Once the insects or parasites are no longer an issue, give the horse a diet high in protein and iron, as well as iron supplements, until hemoglobin levels return to normal.
If your horse is suffering from anemia, you need to allow her plenty of time to heal and recover while limiting the amount of physical activity the horse performs. Most horses will need a month or more to recuperate and return to normal hemoglobin levels. In order to prevent future incidents, feed a good-quality feed with plenty of protein, vitamins and minerals. If your horse is predisposed to anemia, you may want to consider adding a supplement to her diet that features a high iron content.
Equine Infectious Anemia
Equine infectious anemia (EIA) is a highly contagious disease that can spread from one horse to the next by the bite of horseflies. EIA does not have an effective treatment or vaccine, and most horses that come down with this virus die. Even if a horse does survive the disease, it becomes a carrier and cannot be around other horses for the remainder of its lifespan. Horses are routinely tested for EIA in order to prevent the spread of the disease.