A dysfunction of the pituitary gland, Cushing’s disease is often confused with Equine Metabolic Syndrome. Understanding the clinical signs of this metabolic disease is critical to diagnosis and ensuring any horse with Cushing’s receives the right care.
Also called Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction, or PPID, Cushing’s disease is most common in older horses, particularly those aged 18 to 23. Any senior horse with Cushing’s requires careful management and should be seen by your veterinarian at lease twice a year.
There are several signs that indicate Cushing’s disease, including:
- Hypertrichosis (long, curly hair)
- Delayed coat shedding
- Fatty deposits (particularly along the crest of the neck and over the tail head)
- Decreased athletic performance
- Change in attitude, such as lethargy
- Abnormal sweating
- Increased drinking and urination
- Neurological deficits, such as blindness
- Recurrent infections
With a complete physical examination, along with blood and diagnostic tests, you veterinarian will be able to give a definitive diagnosis.
Cushing’s diseases can lead to a number of other health problems, as outlined above. However, most often, it compromises the horse’s immune system, making them more susceptible to infections. Regular worming, vaccinations, dental and hoof care are paramount.
With veterinary consultation, there are medications available to reduce the signs and symptoms of Cushing’s disease. In addition, you may need to make dietary changes to protect your horse’s long-term health. Insulin and blood sugar metabolism in some horses with Cushing’s don’t function properly, so any commercial feeds, treats or forage high in sugars and starches must be avoided.
Do you suspect your horse has Cushing’s disease? We can assist with diagnosis and management advice. Call us today on (07) 4511 4554 to speak with a qualified veterinarian or click here to find out more about our services.