Q&A: Cushing’s in Horses

Understand symptoms of Cushing’s in horses as well as treatment options for a healthier life, with Prascend for horses.

Cushing’s in horses is a complex condition. To better understand exactly what Cushing’s is, let’s quickly outline some Q&As about the most common hormonal disorder affecting horses and ponies.

What is Cushing’s disease in horses?

Also referred to as PPID (Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction), Cushing’s occurs due to a tumor or enlargement of the pituitary gland at the base of the brain, which controls body functions through hormone levels, to work overtime. This can result in many problems for horses that can last throughout their lifetime. Some 30% of horses and ponies more than 15 years old may be affected by PPID, and while this condition occurs more often in senior horses, young horses can still be at risk. PPID can often go undiagnosed, and horses as young as 5 have been confirmed to have the condition.

Are all horse breeds at risk for developing PPID?

Unfortunately, yes, no breed escapes this risk, whether horse or pony.

What are symptoms of Cushing’s in horses?

Early signs:

  • Change in attitude/lethargy
  • Decreased performance
  • Decreased and/or delayed shedding
  • Loss of topline muscle
  • Abnormal sweating (increased or decreased)
  • Infertility
  • Lameness in forelimb and hindlimb
  • Fat deposits along the neck and tail head
  • Laminitis
  • Advanced signs:

  • Sluggish, decreased activity
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Excessive hair growth
  • Loss of shedding
  • Topline muscle atrophy (prominent withers and spine, sunken shoulders)
  • Rounded abdomen (hay belly appearance)
  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Recurrent infections (skin infections, hoof abscesses, conjunctivitis, sinusitis)
  • Dry eye/recurrent corneal ulcers
  • Increased mammary gland secretions
  • Fat deposits above eyes
  • Tendon and suspensory ligament laxity
  • What are treatment options for PPID?

    While there is currently no cure for PPID, horse owners can lessen the effect PPID has on their horse’s health. Prascend is the first and only medicine available in the U.S. that is FDA-approved to treat PPID, providing a safe and effective treatment option for horse owners to give their affected horses an improved quality of life. Additionally, Command IR Ultra is an effective supplement used to support horses with PPID, reducing fat pockets, restoring body condition and addressing the metabolic condition.

    Have horse owners had good success with using Prascend?

    Two horse owners shared their story of their horse’s road to diagnosis and treatment of equine Cushing’s. They were admittedly perplexed with their horse’s rapid change of body condition, saying, “We noticed he wasn't holding his weight well. His coat had become long and curly, his mane was wavy and he was losing all of his top line. When spring came, the other horses were shedding, but Dodger didn’t shed at all,” said Casey Olson.

    After diagnosis of equine Cushing’s from their primary care veterinarian, they knew what was needed to manage Dodger’s unique condition. “Right now, Dodger is on one pill of Prascend a day,” said Casey, who ordered the equine prescription medication from veterinarian-founded Valley Vet Supply. My vet said ‘Valley Vet is great; if you put the order in, they’ll send me the prescription request.’ It was easy.”

    Thanks to Prascend, Dodger is no longer suffering from abnormal sweating, weight loss and a poor coat. With the treatment he has received, he now sports a healthy weight, shiny coat and his energy level is back to normal.

    Why do horse health experts recommend using Prascend?

  • Controlled signs -- Improved clinical signs demonstrated within three to six months
  • Proven success â?? Three of four horses evaluated were considered treatment successes. Additionally, according to a separate field study evaluation, 76% (86 of 113 horses) of evaluable cases were treatment successes.
  • Clear improvement -- Hypertrichosis (delayed shedding) improved in 89% of treated horses within six months
  • In addition to medication for horses, what are other ways to manage equine Cushing’s?

  • Provide a balanced diet. Low-sugar, low-starch diets are often the best approach for horses with PPID.
  • Deworm as needed. Horses with PPID may have a greater risk for high parasite burden, as they historically have higher fecal egg counts.
  • Vaccinate against disease threats. Ensure horses are vaccinated against core and risk-based diseases. Horses with advanced PPID may need West Nile virus vaccinations twice annually. This comparison chart can help you select between West Nile vaccines.
  • Clip coats in the summer and blanket horses during winter, if needed. Often, Cushing’s in horses can produce varying consistency of coat shedding, with some shedding too much or not at all.
  • Maintain a regular dental and hoof care schedule. Ensure hooves are trimmed on average every six to eight weeks.
  • Consider an effective support supplement such as Command IR Ultra.
  • Should your horse have either mild or advanced equine Cushing’s, know that treatment can give him a longer, healthier life. Identifying early stage Cushing’s in horses can have a profound impact on how an affected horse responds to treatment before other signs appear, therefor horse health experts strongly encourage yearly veterinary exams, which also makes for a convenient time to review vaccine schedules and determine recommendations for timing and frequency of horse wormers.

    To continue learning about equine Cushing’s, read “Dodger’s Story with Cushing’s Disease.”

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