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Friday 31st July 2015

Cushings Disease


Has your horse or pony suffered from laminitis in the past? Is your horse overly hairy, looking a bit pot-bellied or just not his or her normal self?
If the answer is yes to any of these questions, particularly the recurring laminitis one, and your horse is over 15 years of age, we’d suggest you give us a call so that we can investigate whether Cushing’s Disease (also known as Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction or “PPID”) may be to blame.
While many cases of laminitis have previously been thought to have been caused by nutritional issues, there is now a growing body of evidence that suggests that up to 80% of laminitis cases seen in practices like our own could be the result of a hormonal imbalance such as Cushing’s Disease – which is why we’re starting to talk about it.
A simple blood test could be all that is needed to diagnose Cushing’s Disease or Syndrome

So what is Cushing’s Disease?
Equine Cushing’s Disease is the most common hormonal disorder of older horses and ponies. We understand that over 15% of horses and ponies over 15 years of age are affected. Combine this with the fact that over 80% of horses suffering from laminitis may have an underlying endocrine disorder like Cushing’s Disease, and it is clear why all of a sudden there is an increasing level of interest in the condition. While the condition is more common in older horses and ponies, many still enjoying active lifestyles can be affected.

How does it happen?
The pituitary gland controls a range of important functions including metabolism, reproduction, growth and lactation. As your horse ages, nerves in part of the brain called the hypothalamus undergo progressive degeneration, and produce insufficient quantities of a nerve transmitter called dopamine. Dopamine normally inhibits the production of some hormones from the neighbouring pituitary, so if there is inadequate dopamine production, these hormones tend to be produced in excessive quantities, resulting in the clinical signs associated with Cushing’s.

What are the clinical signs?
We’ve already mentioned laminitis and hirsutism (abnormal coat), which are two of the most common clinical signs of Cushing’s. But there are plenty of others, which are often variable and not necessarily specific to Cushing’s, and these include:
• excessive sweating
• increased appetite
• increased drinking and urination
• lethargy/tiredness
• poor performance
• reduced immune function leading to reoccurring skin and respiratory infections including sinusitis, dental disease and an increased susceptibility to worms.
• loss of muscle and a pot-belly
• abnormal deposit of fat around the eye

As with most conditions, early diagnosis and treatment of horses and ponies affected by Cushing’s Disease delivers the best outcome. If you recognise any of the signs, we can carry out a blood test to confirm whether or not Cushing’s is the cause.

Treatment and management
Treatment of horses with Cushing’s centres on dealing with any immediate medical problems (eg: laminitis cases generally require a combination of pain relief, foot care etc), and then addressing the underlying hormone imbalance.

There is no cure for equine Cushing’s Disease, but there is an effective licensed medicine which helps get the hormone secretions back in balance. This helps to reduce the clinical signs associated with the disease – such as any laminitis.




FREE lab fees on blood samples for Cushing’s Disease until end of June 2012 for all Equine clients.
As an owner of a horse over 15 years old we thought you might be interested to learn of an offer we currently have on testing for Cushing’s disease. This offer entitles you to have free external laboratory fees for the Cushing’s blood test. This offer does not include our visit fee of £37.80 + VAT or our fees for taking and processing and posting the sample to the laboratory £20.61 + VAT. The sample needs to be spun down, have the plasma proportion removed, chilled and dispatched to the laboratory with a guaranteed next day delivery.   However you will save on a visit fee if you can come into the Equine unit at Kings Cross Road.
Equine Cushing’s disease (hyperadrenocorticism) is a common metabolic disease of older horses in which there is overproduction of the hormone cortisol. Too much cortisol can result in an increased susceptibility to bouts of laminitis, a lower resistance to infections, redistribution of fat to places such as above the eyes, and coat changes where the hair remains long and curly. Not all of these symptoms are always present together, but if your horse experiences any of the above and is over 15 years old, a simple blood test can indicate if your horse is at risk and if medication could help.

In order to claim this offer you need to download a voucher from Navigate to the pink tab that says free blood test voucher at the top right of the screen, then fill in your details and print out your voucher. The voucher should be given to the vet at the time of the blood sample and the vet with send it off with your sample. For more information about Cushing’s and other metabolic conditions and to discuss what tests are appropriate for your horse, call one of our equine vets on 01382 811111