Anaemia can appear both in humans and in many animals, with horses being one of the creatures that can be affected by it. The problem is a result of a lack of red blood cells or haemoglobin in the horse’s blood. There are several symptoms that should be watched out for. These can include pale skin and membranes as well as significant weakness and fatigue. Treatment for the condition is usually through providing appropriate supplements such as iron. But there are many different causes and each one could require a different form of treatment.
Normally a horse’s blood will contain sufficient amounts of red blood cells, and these will contain enough haemoglobin, to successfully carry enough oxygen around the body to all of the animal’s tissues. But sometimes the red blood cells or haemoglobin are lacking. This could be because of poor nutrition or some disease or perhaps some injury that has caused loss of blood, for example. In these cases not enough oxygen is provided to the tissues and a variety of symptoms can arise.
Skin and membranes can become pale as a result of this depleted blood. But other symptoms can also appear as well. The lack of oxygen means that the various tissues such as the muscles of the horse will not be able to function properly. So fatigue and weakness are likely to be observed. Heavy breathing is also possible. This could also put undue stress on the heart of the horse as it tries to compensate.
The various symptoms can be used to help diagnose the presence of anaemia in horses. But the key thing is to perform a blood test. This will allow a blood count to be done, to see if there are low red blood cell levels. Low haemoglobin can also be checked for. Looking at the cells under the microscope can allow observation of damage to cells. But further work is also needed to determine what the underlying cause of the anaemia is, as this will also need to be treated.
The treatment of anaemia in horses usually involves providing the animal with supplements of anything that appears to be lacking, such as iron. But vitamins such as Vitamin C, which aids uptake of iron, and Vitamin B12, could also be provided. Providing the horse with appropriate nutritional requirements in the first place is a useful step to help prevent anaemia developing in the first place. Different causes of anaemia may lead to different treatments, with blood transfusions and chemotherapy being possibilities.