Cushing Horse


What is Cushing's in horses?

Equine Cushing's is a complex hormonal disorder that imbalances the hormonal metabolism in horses. The middle part of the pituitary gland (hypophysis) is not 100% functional, which leads to restricted dopamine production in the brain. The disease remains undetected for a long time and can be associated with many secondary diseases such as laminitis.

Equine Cushing's Syndrome: A hormonal disorder in horses that results in an uncontrolled release of various hormones.

Equine Cushing's is also known as Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction or PPID.

What Causes Cushing's in Horses?

This disease has not been well researched in horses. It is also not always possible to pinpoint an exact cause.

It is believed that the lack of dopamine causes benign tumors to grow in the pituitary gland, leading to the overproduction of hormones such as ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone) and cortisol. While ACTH influences sugar, water, and mineral metabolism, cortisol is involved in many metabolic processes and is increasingly released under stress. The hormones are also important for the regulation of other organs such as the adrenal cortex and pancreas.

If the tumor is the cause of equine Cushing's disease in horses, then the question arises as to what causes the tumor. Doctors suspect that incorrect forms of housing such as feeding, chronic stress, lack of exercise, loneliness, and under-demanding or over-demanding are the triggers.

Cushing's occurs primarily in older horses. However, diagnoses of this disease have increased in recent years and younger horses are also increasingly affected.

What are the signs of Cushing's syndrome in horses?

The symptoms of Cushing's syndrome are very non-specific. The most common are hirsutism (excessive hair growth), sagging abdomen, and increased susceptibility to laminitis, and common infectious diseases.

Many of the symptoms associated with Equine Cushing's Syndrome coincide with those of Equine Metabolic Syndrome, requiring a veterinarian to examine and diagnose the condition. A blood test to determine the ACTH level is then considered proof of Cushing's disease.

Symptoms in Cushing's

·        Problems with changing coats 

·        muscle breakdown

·        long, partially curly coat

·        laminitis

·        susceptibility to infection

·        increased drinking and urination

·        Insulin Resistance – Cushing's horses are at increased risk of diabetes

·        Fat redistribution (hanging belly)

·        Light to heavy sweating

·        blindness

·        languor

·        drop in performance

·        infertility

·        weight loss

Voices are also growing louder among the medical profession that the diagnosis of Cushing is now being pronounced far too quickly and should be questioned more often. Mainly due to the medication in equine Cushing's, the therapy is very stressful for the animal and not free of side effects.

What is the treatment for Cushing's in horses?

Cushing's in horses is currently not curable - only the symptoms can be alleviated or even completely suppressed. The therapy should urgently be individually adapted to the horse by a veterinarian or alternative animal practitioner. The aim is to curb the production of hormones in the pituitary gland by the drug. Usually, a drug is prescribed that is administered over a long period or continuously.

To reduce the administration of medication in the long term, one should treat it holistically and support it with natural herbs and feed supplements. This can even reduce the dose of medication. Early diagnosis and prompt treatment can extend the horse's lifespan.

In addition, the way the horse is kept must be reconsidered and possibly adjusted.

Cushing's Horses - Natural Treatment

·        Feed supplements with chaste tree and vitamin C – chaste tree increases the dopaminergic activity of the pituitary gland. Vitamin C has an antioxidant effect and can have a positive effect on oxidative stress.

·        Promotion of movement - Regular training sessions are beneficial for the horse and help with boredom. However, the animal must not be stressed, otherwise, the symptoms can worsen.

·        Weight reduction - If your horse has too much on its hips, the bacon has to come off. This increases the animal's well-being and helps with Cushing's symptoms.

·        Treating Laminitis - The biggest challenge with Cushing's is the development of laminitis. This significantly reduces the quality of life of your horse. Therefore, always pay attention to possible signs of laminitis and react quickly during treatment.

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