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October 25, 2008 | | Comments 0

Cushing’s Disease in Horses

Cushing's Disease in Horses

Cushing's Disease in Horses

Cushing’s Disease in Horses

Like the human form of the disease, Cushing’s disease affects the pituitary gland of horses. This is the gland that manages the endocrine system. Horses with this disease therefore suffer from hormonal and metabolic problems. The disease can affect horses of any age. It is most commonly diagnosed however among older horses.

Causes of Cushing’s Disease in Horses

The symptoms brought about by Cushing’s disease are caused by a tumor in the pituitary gland. Although the tumor is considered benign, it can still adversely affect the quality of life of a horse. Apparently, the disease itself is brought about by the increase in the production of the hormone cortisol. This in turn is caused by the irregular activity of an enzyme that promotes hormone production.

Symptoms of Cushing’s Disease in Horses

The symptoms of the disease are most often observable. A horse may suddenly begin to eat more and drink more. Increased water intake should be accompanied by increased urination. Food intake however may not lead to weight or mass increase. On the contrary, muscle loss in some areas of the body may be apparent. An affected horse may begin to look sickly and pot-bellied. The horse’s hair and coat may start to grow more than usual without shedding.

Naturally, a serious condition like Cushing’s disease will also have an impact on the horse’s immune system. A horse may become more prone to infections affecting the hooves, lungs, skin and gums. These resulting conditions in themselves may be a cause of great discomfort and pain to an affected horse. A horse owner who may observe only the appearance of these illnesses may initially suspect some other condition.

Treatment of Cushing’s Disease in Horses

The treatment options for this condition are not cures. There is currently no effective and safe way to remove the tumor causing the disease. Treatment can therefore only be used to manage and regulate the symptoms. The most common form of treatment is medication involving the administration of drugs that regulate hormones. With the right type and amount of drugs, a horse will begin to show a decrease in observable symptoms. Since the tumor is still present though, a time will come when chemical medication may not be of any use.

Some horse owners may suggest using herbal remedies. Although there have been some studies focused on validating the effectiveness of some herbal ingredients, there are no conclusive findings. It is up to the discretion of horse owners if they choose to give natural remedies. When considering any remedy, always have in mind the safety of your horse.

With proper treatment, you may be able to prolong the life of your horse. When this is no longer possible though, you still have the responsibility of making your horse as comfortable as possible. Proper grooming and feeding should still be observed. Regular visits to the vet are also a must. Whenever possible, avoid situations and circumstances that may heighten horse anxiety or discomfort.

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Filed Under: Horse Health

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