Cushings is also known as pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (PPID) and is the most common equine hormonal disorder. The condition is caused by an enlargement of the pituitary gland or a tumour affecting the pituitary gland. Unfortunately, there is no cure available for this condition. However, with good management, the right diet and regular veterinary attention, horses can lead active lives and remain comfortable for many years with Cushings.
How to Recognise Cushings
The symptoms of Cushings can often be confused with those of aging. These symptoms include excessive thirst and excessive urination. There may be weight loss and loss of topline. Your horse might exhibit a pot-bellied appearance and could develop a long, curly coat. Horses with Cushings can sweat persistently and show an increased appetite but without weight gain. They could develop laminitis and suffer from persistent infections of the skin and respiratory system. Horses can also become lethargic with no other obvious cause.
It is important that your horse does not become underweight or overweight. Try to maintain a of roughly 5 out of 9. Don't include feeds in your horse's diet which are high in cereals as these contain a high proportion of starch. If your horse is in light work, then it is especially crucial to avoid cereals. If your horse loses too much weight and so making weight gain desirable, then choose feeds which are higher in fibre and oil rather than higher in starch.
Feed your horse little and often as this will help to prevent sharp rises in blood glucose levels and insulin. Meals should be less than 2kgs in weight. Your horse's diet must be properly balanced and feature the protein, vitamins and minerals that they require. If you are feeding reduced quantities to manage their weight, then add in a vitamin and mineral supplement or feed balancer. It could also be useful to include a supplement formulated to support a healthy metabolism and immune system. Source fibre based feeds which are low in sugar and starch. Those approved by the Laminitis Trust would be an excellent choice and you can identify them by their logo on the packaging.
It is possible to have your forage analysed to establish how much soluble carbohydrate (sugar and fructans) it contains. It would be useful to do this as your horse's forage should ideally contain less than 10% soluble carbohydrate. Soaking your hay for up to 16 hours will reduce the soluble carbohydrate.
Changes to Your Horse's Diet
If you are making changes to your horse's diet to make it more appropriate for your animal's needs, the changes must be introduced slowly. Sudden changes will disconcert your horse and may result in them refusing to eat the new foods. Introduce new elements of their diet gradually over a period of two weeks.
You should ensure that your worming programme is kept up to date. This is due to horses with Cushing's having been shown to have higher faecal egg counts.
If your horse's coat gets thick and curly then you may need to clip them regularly to help prevent them from sweating too much or overheating. Especially as they tend not to shed their winter coat in the summer.