Cushing in the Equine & Spotting the Signs

Just about every animal develops a warm, thick coat in the wintertime. As the weather warms these animals, including horses, shed that coat in order to stay cool during the hot summer months. If a horse fails to shed its winter coat, there is a good chance that the horse may have Cushing's disease. This disease occurs more often in older horses and ponies. When the adrenal gland produces an excessive amount of cortisol, Cushing's disease is possible if not probable. Cushing's disease has also been associated with laminitis and founder. In just about every case, the pituitary gland at the base of the brain is responsible for the increased activity of the adrenal gland.


One of the most notable signs of Cushing disease is the development of a very long and sometimes curly coat. Unlike winter coats, a horse with Cushing's disease will not shed once the weather gets warm. Other symptoms may include weight loss, excessive drinking and urinating, as well as an excessive amount of sweating. Most horses with this disease will develop laminitis, but in this case laminitis is more difficult to treat because it is caused by abnormalities in the pituitary gland rather than external circumstances which are more commonly the cause of laminitis and founder.


There are a number of different tests that can be used to determine whether or not a horse has Cushing's disease, but they are not always completely accurate. A horse that does not shed its winter hair in the summertime will almost definitely have this disease. Some medications that have been designed for use by humans can provide excellent results when used on horses. The most effective medication for the treatment of this disease is known as pergolide. If the horse has developed laminitis, a veterinarian will also most likely recommend corrective shoes in order to ease the pain associated with that particular condition. It would be a mistake to assume that a horse with Cushing's disease is nearing the end of its life. This condition can be treated very effectively, especially if the telltale signs of the disease are caught early. If an owner suspects that his animal may be suffering from Cushing's disease, it is vital that the horse receive medical treatment right away. As with most diseases, treatment of Cushing's disease will be more effective the sooner the condition is caught and treatment can begin.