Cushings Disease

Equine Cushings Disease is caused by a malfunction of the Pituitary gland, leading to excess production of cortisol, which is a natural steroid. Such substances can make the gut wall more permeable to the toxins present in the hind-gut (produced by harmful bacteria – normally insignificant in a healthy horse). Thes toxins can reach the hooves via the bloodstream & cause laminitis.
Cushing’s disease is a typical problem of the older horse, and also occurs in other species.


– Excessive thirst – drinking up to 3 times more than usual.
– Long coarse hairy coat, sometimes curly, retained in summer.
– Swayback stance and pot belly.
– Deposit of fat above the eyes.
– Dull, listless appearance. 
– Increased appetite (but probably without improved condition).
– Laminitis.
– Loss of topline.

Management will require veterinary advice; drugs such as Pergolide or Prascend are the standard treatments, available only on prescription. These drugs can depress appetite, with consequent problems of weight loss.
Several websites produced by qualified veterinary practitioners observe that if caught early, Cushings Disease can be controlled with Agnus Castus (Monk’s Pepper, Chaste Tree) see for example The Laminitis Trust.
Visit the  laminitis page for advice on suitable feeds for the cushinoid horse or pony. For advice on maintaining condition, click here.
This horse was thought to be suffering incipient cushings disease. This picture was taken in early June. Note the winter coat still on the belly, neck, and legs.
Ten days later, more of the winter coat has been shed but a weight loss problem has become apparent.
For guidance on feeding please complete the Nutrition Enquiry form so that John Chapman can give suitable advice

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