Equine Cushings Disease (or PPID)
What is PPID?
Today, Equine Cushing’s Disease is often described more accurately as PPID (Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction), a hormonal dysfunction in horses.
PPID causes the horse’s pituitary gland to produce an excess of hormones. Hormones are chemical substances produced by one part of the body, and used to control the function of another part of the body. They normally exist in a fine balance to help regulate bodily functions.
It’s important to understand that the hormonal imbalances caused by PPID can have devastating consequences to your horse such as laminitis.
PPID in more detail
PPID affects as many as 1 in 7 horses and ponies over 15 years of age but it’s not only older horses that are affected, younger horses and ponies can also be affected of any breed regardless of gender.
Because the disease progresses slowly, early signs can be difficult to spot. Sometimes we may think our horse is just getting older or having a few “off” days, when they have a hidden condition that’s causing them not to be themselves.
What signs should you look for?
Three common signs that may indicate that your horse has PPID
- An abnormal hair coat ( such as long patches of hair of hair that doesn’t shed)
- Unexplained lameness (laminitis)
- A pot belly or fat pouches around the eyes or tail head
Additional signs may include:
- Excessive or abnormal sweating
- Increased appetite
- Increased drinking
- Increased urination
- Muscle loss
- Slow-to-heal wounds and more frequent infections
- Dental problems
- Lack of energy or poor performance
You can help a lot by watching for early signs of PPID and asking your veterinarian to perform an examination of your horse if you spot any of them. Your vet will give your horse a complete check and may perform a blood test to measure various hormone levels. A single blood sample is taken to measure the level of the hormone ACTH which is abnormally high in horses suffering from PPID
How can you treat PPID?
The good news is that PPID needn’t be the end of the world. Even if your vet finds that your horse has PPID, there are supportive care and treatment options available to help keep your horse healthy and happy for many years.
For instance your vet may advise simple steps including regular hoof care, dental care, hair clipping, changes in diet and antibiotic treatment for infections to help keep your horse looking and feeling great.
Your vet may also prescribe a licensed treatment, and if so you will need to give it to your horse on a daily basis. Usually there is a short lag between the beginning of the treatment and seeing your horse return to normal. The signs that alerted you to the problem will generally improve within 6-12 weeks of commencing treatment.
What happens if PPID remains untreated?
Your horse could develop clinical signs which could make it impossible for you and your horse to enjoy quality time together.