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Cushings Disease


Cushings Disease


Cushings disease or hyperadrenocorticism is a common hormonal disorder of mid to older age horses and ponies. It presents with a variety of clinical signs and some cases may appear normal.


Cushings disease is a hormonal disease caused by an overproduction of the bodies natural steroid hormones from the pituitary gland (located at the base of the brain). These steroids are vital for normal body function and are essential for many body processes such as body water balance, stress response and in metabolism.


Clinical signs for cushings disease include:



Weight Loss

Pot Belly

Bulging supraorbital fat pad (the hollow areas above a horses eyes)

Excess drinking / urinating

Abnormal hairy coat (curly in appearance)

Recurrent / non responsive laminitis

Recurrent infections


Diagnosis of cushings disease is straight forward and is dependent on the bodies response to an injection of steroid. As the disease causes an overproduction of natural steroid hormones, if a dose of steroid is injected into the horse, a normal horse should stop producing the hormone as plenty is present. If the horse has cushings disease an excess amount of steroid hormone is already circulating and the body isn’t responding to this, so the level of hormones will remain high.


Treatment is straightforward and is often a once daily dose of a drug to lower the circulating steroid chemicals. Sometimes treatment is not needed especially if there is no history of laminitis. Certainly treatment of cushings in a laminitic horse should provide easier management of the laminitis. It can take 4 – 6 weeks to notice a change in the horse after treatment is initiated.



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