Spotting the signs of Equine Cushing's disease

Prompt recognition of this condition can reduce the risk of laminitis

Watch out for these signs of Equine Cushing's disease in your horse

 

What are the symptoms of Equine Cushing's disease?

Equine Cushing's disease will cause a varying combinations of signs from one horse or pony to another, so it is important to regularly check for all of the clinical signs associated with this disease once your horse or pony is over the age of 10.

The early signs of Cushing's are often overlooked or simply put down to 'old age': sometimes owners don't realise that their horse has been showing signs of lethargy until they treat it and see the sudden increase in their horse's energy levels!

Have you noticed your horse or pony 'slowing down' or becoming more lethargic? Have they developed a pot-belly or fat pads over their eyes? Have they lost their top-line? If the answer to any of these questions is yes and your horse or pony is over 10 years old then speak to your vet to find out whether a test for Equine Cushing's disease may be appropriate.

Other Cushing's signs such as recurrent infections can be seen as that foot abscess that keeps coming back, or that corneal ulcer that never seems to clear up. Increased thirst is difficult to spot if your horse is out on a field all day, but keeping an eye on water levels in their troughs will help. If your horse is stabled and you notice that you are suddenly mucking out more wet bedding than usual this can be a sign of increased urination which is another sign of Cushing's. Problems getting a mare over the age of 10 in foal can be a sign of underlying Cushing's as this condition can affect fertility.

The more familiar signs of Equine Cushing's disease are abnormal coat shedding and abnormal sweating: if you notice that your horse is not shedding normally this can indicate Cushing's disease. Whilst this symptom does not usually have the same impact on your horse's welfare as some of the other signs of Cushing's, if left untreated it is likely that other symptoms of this hormonal condition will eventually develop as well.

Laminitis is a familiar term to most horse owners, but this condition is still under-recognised. Take a look at our section on spotting the signs of laminitis for more information on this.

You can download our simple assessment checklist using the link below to review whether your horse or pony is showing signs of this disease

Equine Cushings Assessment Checklist for horse owners.pdf

What should I do if I spot the symptoms of Equine Cushing's disease in my horse or pony?

Speak to your veterinary surgeon to find out whether it is appropriate to test for this disease, and if it is you can download a voucher for a free* diagnostic Cushing's test from this website.

*free laboratory fees for basal ACTH test only. Visit, blood sampling and interpretation fees may be applied by your veterinary practice.