Cushing’s Disease

If your horse is exhibiting these signs, it might be time to call your veterinarian.

From The American Quarter Horse Journal


Now that the days are getting longer, and warmer, most of my horses are shedding, except for my older gelding. Last year, he kept a really long hair coat, too. My friends have mentioned that he may have Cushing’s disease – how can I tell if he does?

For our answer, we turned to the April 2012 issue of The American Quarter Horse Journal and its feature, “Unharmonious Hormones.”


Equine pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction is a hormonal disorder affecting the pituitary gland. Formerly known as Cushing’s disease, which is a similar disease that affects humans and dogs, it has been renamed to more accurately reflect the condition in equines.

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The pituitary gland, located near the base of the brain, controls numerous body functions via hormone secretion. In a horse with PPID, the middle lobe of the gland becomes enlarged and secretes excess hormones. This causes a cascade of problems throughout the body.

PPID affects aged horses, typically 15 and older. Symptoms might be mild and hard to notice, especially in early stages.

Common symptoms of PPID include:

•    Changes in hair coat: slow to shed, shed incompletely or in patches, shed late or grow hair early, develop long, curly hair
•    Muscle loss along the topline
•    Increased thirst and urination
•    Difficulty thermoregulating: sweating excessively or not at all
•    Quieter attitude
•    Unexplained infections
•    Chronic laminitis

If you suspect your horse has PPID, contact your veterinarian for a checkup. Have a history on the horse available, including shedding patterns and his or her typical water consumption.

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To learn more about PPID, or Cushing’s disease, and insulin resistance, be sure to read “Unharmonious Hormones” in the April 2012 issue of The American Quarter Horse Journal.