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Equine Health Resource

Cushing's Disease Suspected Based on Appearance

Code Orange - Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours

Code Yellow - Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment

Code Orange - Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours

  • If you notice lameness in addition to this sign.
  • If the horse seems stiff, or digital pulse is present.

Code Yellow - Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment

  • If you do not notice any lameness or stiffness.
  • If you do not notice digital pulse or heat in the feet.

“Cushing’s Disease” (now called Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction, PPID) is not an observation, it is a diagnosis. The reason I have included it here is that horse owners tend to be on the lookout for this condition and may think they can diagnose it easily.

However, there is still a great deal of confusion about this condition, which commonly occurs in older horses. It is usually still under-diagnosed and is often misdiagnosed.

The classic signs of PPID are weight loss, excessive urination, hair coat changes and lameness. In addition, affected horses may have chronic infection and other health problems. But importantly, the signs can be very subtle.

Many of the signs commonly associated with PPID are confused with those seen in horses with Equine Metabolic Disease, EMS. Overweight, cresty necked horses are actually likely not to have PPID or Cushing’s disease but instead have EMS.

WHAT TO DO

Instead of jumping to a diagnosis, just observe your horse carefully. Assess the horse’s general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), and assess for lameness at the walk, which could indicate low grade laminitis. Try searching again based on words that describe what you actually see – your observations – or call your vet to discuss your hunch.

WHAT YOUR VET DOES

If your horse has all of the classic signs of PPID, your vet will discuss the ways to diagnose and quantify the severity of the condition. They may also discuss the pros and cons of treating the horse without definitive diagnosis. In this case, an improvement in the horse’s condition with treatment (pergolide) would be diagnostic of the condition. It is always best to use lab testing to help provide baseline and improvement.

Helpful Terms & Topics in HSVGWritten, Reviewed or Shared by Experts in Equine Health

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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