As equine medicine progresses, and routine stable management improves, horse owners are finding that their horses and ponies are living to a much more advanced age.? Because of this, it is important for horse owners to be aware of age-related diseases.? Cushing?s Disease is a relatively common problem affecting older horses, and particularly ponies.? Cushing?s Disease is caused by a benign tumor growing in the pituitary gland.? This creates an increase in the number of chemical messengers sent throughout the body, and in particular to the adrenal glands which control all the hormones in the body.
Horses suffering from this disease tend to have a long shaggy coat that looks almost curly.? They typically grow their winter coat in early and fail to shed it out in the spring.? This thick, heavy coat causes them to heat up quickly for no apparent reason, and often results in skin infections since the skin is unable to breathe and dry once it becomes sweaty.? The disease also causes laminitis, chronic hoof abscesses, excessive thirst, muscle wasting, and a sway back appearance.? Immunodeficiency also accompanies the disease, and affected horses will often have difficulty healing from wounds.
The signs of the disease can be both subtle and gradual, making it difficult for you to immediately notice changes in your horse.? Cushing?s should always be suspected in chronic laminitis cases in older horses and also in the case of a coat that even partially won?t shed.? If you are concerned about the disease, have your vet examine your horse to confirm diagnosis.? Although surgery is rarely an option, there are drug treatments that are extremely effective in dealing with this problem.? This drug therapy is costly, and must be continued for the duration of the horse?s life, but is proven to improve the horse?s condition almost immediately.