I’m sometimes asked about Cushing's disease in horses, also known as Equine Cushing's syndrome or Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction (PPID). So I’m writing this to explain what it is, the traditional treatment and some natural and energetic work you can safely do to support veterinary care.
Cushings is a hormonal disorder that affects the pituitary gland in horses.
The pituitary gland is a small structure located at the base of the brain and plays a crucial role in regulating various hormones in the body.
In horses with Cushing's disease, the pituitary gland becomes enlarged and starts to produce excessive amounts of a hormone called adrenocorticotropic hormone (which I can never pronounce! ACTH. This hormone, in turn, stimulates the adrenal glands to produce excessive levels of cortisol, a stress hormone.
The primary cause of Cushing's disease in horses is not entirely understood, but it is more commonly observed in older horses, usually over the age of 15. It is believed that certain age-related changes in the pituitary gland contribute to the development of the condition.
Clinical signs of Cushing's disease in horses include:
Abnormal or long, curly haircoat that doesn't shed properly (hirsutism)
Excessive sweating and difficulty regulating body temperature
Increased thirst and urination
Muscle wasting and weakness
Laminitis (painful inflammation of the hoof)
Increased susceptibility to infections
Pot-bellied appearance due to abdominal fat redistribution
Diagnosis of Cushing's disease involves a combination of clinical signs, blood tests to measure hormone levels (e.g., ACTH), and imaging studies like ultrasound or MRI to assess the size and condition of the pituitary gland.
While there is no cure for Cushing's disease in horses, it can be managed with medication, such as pergolide, which helps to control hormone levels and alleviate some of the clinical signs. Proper nutrition, regular exercise, and close veterinary monitoring are also essential components of the management plan.
While it takes time and commitment, there are so many success stories that can allow a degree of optimism, yesterday on the horse Q&A we heard one such story from Linda (thank you for sharing).
Early detection and effective management of Cushing's disease can improve the horse's quality of life and help prevent or minimize complications associated with the condition. Regular veterinary check-ups and attentive care are crucial for horses diagnosed with Cushing's disease
Here are some natural remedies and management strategies that may be helpful:
1. Diet management: Feed your horse a low-carbohydrate and low-sugar diet. Reducing the intake of sugars and starches can help manage insulin levels and prevent complications related to Cushing's disease.
2. Herbal supplements: Some herbal supplements may help support the endocrine system and improve the horse's condition. Examples include chasteberry (Vitex agnus-castus) and cinnamon. However, it's crucial to consult with an equine herbalist or veterinarian knowledgeable in herbal treatments before administering any supplements.
3. Exercise: Regular, gentle exercise can benefit horses with Cushing's disease. It can help with weight management, improve circulation, and promote overall well-being. However, avoid strenuous exercise, as it may lead to muscle wasting and fatigue.
4. Paddock management: Provide a dry and clean living environment for the horse to reduce the risk of hoof-related issues and skin infections.
5. Sun protection: Horses with Cushing's disease may be more sensitive to sunlight, leading to sunburn and related skin problems. Providing access to shade or using fly sheets and masks can offer protection.
6. Regular hoof care: Proper hoof care is essential for horses with Cushing's disease, as they can be prone to laminitis and other hoof issues.
7. Stress reduction: Minimize stress in the horse's environment, as stress can exacerbate the symptoms of Cushing's disease. Maintain a stable routine and limit exposure to stressful situations. This is where energy medicine can help; Triple Warmer is one of the main meridian of energies associated with stress reaction, so tracing and massaging the Source Point for this energy pathway is always a first port of call. Figure 8 over the brain area – with the intention of bringing a balance to the Pituitary gland. A spinal flush will positively influence the entire boy and is easy to do.
Explore the animal blogs on my website (www.madisonking.com) they are all free, many include links to videos I've made - here’s a couple of examples:
If you would like to know more about how to work with the energies of your horse (and you) – take a look at ENERGY MEDICINE FOR YOUR HORSE, the third in my animal trilogy, available on Amazon.