Equine Cushing’s Disease, or Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction (PPID), results in an imbalance in the hormones produced by the pituitary gland of horses. In turn, this imbalance results in the range of clinical signs that characterise the condition. It is a chronic and progressive disease that is seen quite commonly in older horses and ponies.
Not all horses will display the same clinical signs. Other signs, which are often variable and not specific to Cushing’s, may include:
- excessive sweating
- increased appetite
- increased drinking and urination
- poor performance
- reduced immune function; this can result in recurring skin and respiratory infections including sinusitis, dental disease and an increased susceptibility to worms.
Early diagnosis and treatment of horses and ponies affected by Cushing’s Disease gives the chance for treatment to deliver the best outcome. However, the initial stages of the condition are often slow to appear and difficult to detect, resulting in a delay before diagnosis and treatment.
A blood test is needed to confirm the diagnosis which can be carried out by your vet.
Treatment and Management
Treatment of affected horses and ponies centres on dealing with any immediate medical problems, together with addressing the underlying endocrine imbalance. While there is no cure for Cushing’s, an effective licensed medicine is now available from veterinary surgeons which helps normalise the hormone secretion of affected horses and ponies, and in so doing reduces clinical signs associated with the disease.
It is important to have a good programme of routine preventative healthcare. This should include:
- Effective worming
- A suitable diet
- Farriery and foot care
- Coat care
- Health monitoring