Equine Cushings Disease

Cushing’s is generally a degenerative condition of older horses and is a result of a number of hormone related problems that derive from changes in the brain.  It differs in a number of ways from the condition with the same name in dogs and humans. It cannot be cured, but treatment can prolong and improve quality of life.  All types of horse can be affected from Shetland ponies to active competition horses.

Signs to look out for

Signs can be very subtle signs in the early stages of the condition but much more severe and life threatening later in the course of the condition. There is unfortunately no prevention.

  • Change in coat length and density and changes in moulting patterns (hirsutism)
  • Sweating
  • Laminitis
  • Excessive drinking and urine production
  • Recurrent infections and poor coat quality e.g. foot abscesses, frequently high worm egg counts, lice, ringworm, skin infections, delayed wound healing, sinus or dental infections.
  • Loss of weight and/or topline and fat redistribution to the abdomen.
  • In very severe cases if the pituitary gland enlarges significantly it can press on the optic nerves and the brain and cause blindness and seizures.

How will the vet confirm the diagnosis?

A blood test will enable a diagnosis in most cases. In some cases where the clinical signs seem very suggestive of Cushing’s but the blood test does not agree we may need to perform further testing.

How will the vet treat my horse?

Clipping of the coat and regular dental and farrier attention will help. Careful and regular worming and early detection of infections is essential. A drug called pergolide can help control the clinical signs. This drug needs regular monitoring to ensure your horse is on the correct dose. Clinical signs usually improve however, they are very unlikely to ever go back to complete normality.

What is the long-term prognosis?

Given a good response to the drugs and good management, many horses can live with Cushing’s for years.  Cases that are complicated by severe laminitis, infections, etc. have a much poorer prognosis.

From the 1st of June until the 31st of October if your horse or pony is over 10 years old and showing some of the signs mentioned above and has not previously been diagnosed with Cushing’s disease then Boehringer Ingelheim after offering free laboratory testing. More information can be found by following the link below http://www.talkaboutlaminitis.co.uk/. Visit fees and postage and packing charges still apply. Please do contact us if you any further questions or would like to discuss your particular horse’s case.

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