Equine Cushing's disease is caused by a tumour in the pituitary gland, which is responsible for the production and regulation of hormones. While the tumour itself is benign, the cells within the tumour produce excess hormones, creating an imbalance in the horse's body. The cause of the tumour itself is usually not known.
Cushing's disease is most common in horses over 20 years old, although it has been known to occur in horses as young as seven year old. It is equally prevalent in both genders and is found more often in Morgans than in any other breed. Ponies may also have a slightly higher predisposition.
The most notable symptom of Cushing's disease is the growth of a long, shaggy, coat of hair. This irregularly long and sometimes coarse wavy hair often persists throughout summer months and is a critical signal that a horse may have Cushing's disease. This may be accompanied by sweating and flaking of skin.
Other symptoms are caused by the hormonal imbalance in the adrenal gland. These symptoms include excessive drinking, an affected horse may drink as much as 80 litres of water a day (as opposed to an average 20 - 30 litres), and urination, laminitis, a tendency for recurring infections in the hoof . There may be a development of a swayback stance and a pot belly along with increased appetite usually with no accompanying weight gain. A filling above the eyes caused by the deposition of fat, normally, you can see a depression above the horse's eye. The immune system becomes compromised which gives rise to a host of conditions/diseases which are often passed off as old age. These include respiratory disease, skin infections, abscesses of the foot, mouth ulcers, and periodontal disease. Overall there is a depressed, sick-looking appearance with dull eyes and drab coat.
Assist your horse by avoiding stress. The hormonal profile of many horses with Cushing's disease already indicates high stress levels, so reducing stress is critical. Provide a safe, comfortable "sanctuary" for your horse and stick to a strict routine, which will help minimize stress. Keep water and feed conveniently located and in the same place and clip your horse in warm weather; use blankets when it is cold. Keep up grooming to minimize skin diseases and keep hooves in good shape. It is important to check teeth regularly and have them checked by a professional twice a year.
My Cushings Disease mix contains the herbs; Borage, Chaste Berry, Liquorice, Blue Flag, Comfrey, Chamomile, Nettle , Fennel , Garlic , Hawthorn and Dandelion for additional support to the kidneys and adrenals as well as the Bach Flowers Walnut, Scleranthus and Rescue remedy. Along with a Rosehips tea . Give 2-heaped teaspoons of kelp and rosehips tea daily.