Does your horse suffer from Cushing's Disease? - McDowell's Herbal Treatments

Equine Cushing's disease or Cushings Syndrome, also referred to as Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction (or PPID), 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.

stock fathorse SMLL

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 years 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 through the 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.

McDowells feeding recommendations

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.

In most cases of Cushing’s you can use diet and herbs to manage symptoms without the need of a chemical medication. My herbal program can be given long term and it is advised to keep in contact with me regularly to make sure we are on track with the dose and management. Both horses can be fed the same diet and herbs. we will adjust quantities depending on energy requirements. You will need to feed the diet as I have described below.

This diet is naturally low in sugar, has appropriate levels of omegas and protein as well as micro and macronutrients.

Soy is absolutely contraindicated in cases of Cushing’s due to its endocrine disrupting effects – there is also studies recently released linking unfermented soy to breast cancer in women – there is an enzyme inhibitor in soy that disrupts all kinds of metabolic pathways in mammals so I strongly suggest that if you can’t find the source of the vegetable protein in the feed that you are giving that it is likely to be soy and you should stop using it. Lectins are plant toxin that many plants use as a defence is that is in the outer hulls of the soy that is the main issue.

I recommend a special diet and herbal supports which will help to normalise the blood sugar and transform your horses metabolism at the cellular level. I suggest a 12 week course of the tonic and new whole food diet / low sugar diet which will help to normalise your horses system from the ground up. I would like that you use plain Speedi beet instead of the usual micro beet /alfalfa as plain speedi-beet seems to get the better results overall in our experience.

Diet for Cushings Horse

For Oxalate pastures you need to feed away from the pasture , ensuring that Calcium uptake is normal. Calcium binding occurs when grazing and the grass is continually in the gastro-intestinal tract. Feeding Magnesium helps. Chelated calcium (this is very expensive) will help as well but best to feed away from the pasture for best management and therefore require less of these mineral supplements.

McDowells products

Cushing Formula
My Cushings Disease mix contains the herbs; Borage, Chaste Berry, Liquorice, Blue Flag, Elecampane, 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. This 5 litres  lasts about 6 weeks and you will need to have your horse on it for at least 12 weeks to accurately gauge a healing response. Then a reduction of the herbs can be given in order to maintain her equilibrium, and this will make the treatment more economical.

This formulation has evolved from a consideration of the dangers of administering phenylbutazone (Bute) routinely to horses sensitive to its side effects. Traditionally White Willow Bark and Devils Claw were used for pain relief. Guaiacum was traditionally used for Gout and Burdock as a blood cleanser for Rheumatoid processes. Pine Bark, Rosehips, Elecampane for its Allantoin content together with Yarrow in a Vinegar base all support repair. These herbs have been traditionally used to reduce pain from inflammation and support in the healing process. This formulation may be used safely for both emergencies and in the long term for comfort.The tonic will need to be given continuously for a minimum of 3 weeks, and can be maintained long term if necessary. Improvements are usually observed within 3-6 weeks on the tonic.

Brewer’s Yeast, Liquorice Powder, Fennel Powder, Slippery Elm Powder , pure Aloe Vera Powder ( all  Aloe Vera liquids are made from this concentrated powder) and the essential Chamomile powder with Bentonite Clay. This all in one is given at a small dose rate of 1 x 50 gram scoop x 2 a day

Mag-A-GG is a 'calming formula'. A combination of Magnesium oxide, brewer’s yeast, chamomile and dandelion specially formulated to assist in muscle relaxation and nervousness. Supplementing a horse known to be deficient in magnesium has shown to have beneficial impacts on their flight response and general nervousness. Magnesium also activates enzymes necessary for the metabolism of carbohydrates and amino acids which lead to protein synthesis.

Tendon and Bone
Tendon and Bone has been successfully used by McDowells Herbal to promote the re-growth of attachment points and the re-tensioning of stretched or damaged ligaments. Tendon and Bone contains a combination of elecampane along with kelp granules, ground linseed, ground millet, yarrow, horsetail and the Dr Bach™ Flower Rescue Remedy™ Elecampane is a stimulant to fibroblast (the most common cells of connective tissue in animals) and osteoblast (single nucleus that synthesize bone) activity due to its allantoin content.

Millet contains especially high levels of organic silica compounds as well as carbohydrate and many other minerals. It also contains high levels of magnesium and higher in protein than most other grains.
Linseed is specific nourishment for strength and elasticity of ligaments and attachment points and is a whole feed source of Omega 3 and 6 and Linoleic acids.
Kelp contains phosphorus iron, sodium, calcium, magnesium and potassium which makes it great for strengthening bones and assists in the treatment of arthritis and rheumatism.
This blend will need to be given continuously for a min of 12 weeks at full dose, and can be maintained long term if necessary at ½ dose as a general feed supplement.

Rosehips tea and kelp is also excellent.
Give 2-heaped teaspoons of kelp and rosehips tea daily.

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McDowell's staff Herbalists can not diagnose your disease or illness. What they can do is offer a herbal program to assist with healing, after you have had advice from your doctor or specialist. If you have unexplained pain or symptoms, seek medical advice.

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