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Cushing’s Disease

Cushing’s disease, or Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction (PPID), is a chronic, progressive condition caused by an imbalance in the hormones produced by the pituitary gland, which is located at the base of the brain.

  • Last reviewed: 9th June 2022
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Horses with PPID don’t produce enough dopamine, resulting in the pituitary gland becoming unregulated and excessive amounts of hormones being produced. Dopamine, a brain chemical, controls the pituitary gland to ensure hormones essential for maintaining and controlling a range of body functions are produced. 

The disease commonly affects horses and ponies over the age of 15; due to rising life expectancy rates, it’s becoming increasingly prevalent. 

Signs

Signs can often vary from horse to horse and some may be more obvious than others. They often include: 

  • Muscle wastage.
  • Abnormal fat deposits and sweating.
  • Reduced immune function; this can result in recurring skin and respiratory infections including sinusitis, dental disease and an increased susceptibility to worms.
  • Lethargy.
  • Laminitis. 
  • Increased thirst and urination.
  • Abnormal coat.

It is important to contact your vet if you believe your horse is suffering from Cushing’s disease.

Diagnosis and management

Early diagnosis of horses and ponies affected by Cushing’s allows more time for management strategies to be used, to ensure a more positive quality of life

Diagnosis

The initial stages of the condition are often slow to appear, can be difficult to detect and are sometimes overlooked, which may result in a delay before the diagnosis and management of the disease.  

A blood test is needed to confirm the diagnosis which can be carried out by your vet. 

Management

Although Cushing’s is incurable, management strategies can be implemented and medication may be advised to help normalise the hormone secretion and reduce the signs associated with the disease.  

Get in touch – we’re here to help 

The Horse Care and Welfare Team are here to help and can offer you further advice with any questions you may have. Contact us on 02476 840517* or email welfare@bhs.org.uk – You can also get in touch with us via our social media channels. 

Opening times are 8:35 am - 5 pm from Monday – Thursday and 8:35 am - 3 pm on Friday. 

*Calls may be recorded for monitoring purposes.