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Equine Cushing's Disease

Equine Cushing's Disease

Cushing’s Disease, also known as Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction (PPID), is a hormonal disorder affecting horses and ponies. Saying that, it is more common in ponies and usually distinguishable by a noticeably long coat length and coat retention. It is a disease that is increasingly prevalent due to the fact that horses and ponies are now living longer.

Signs to Look Out For

  • Increased coat length

  • Failure to shed coat in summer

  • Weight loss

  • Increased drinking

  • Increased urination

  • Lethargy

  • Increased sweating

  • Laminitis

Horses and ponies with PPID can also be more prone to other infections such as sinusitis, skin infections and parasitism.


The underlying cause of PPID is a problem with the pituitary gland. Usually, a growth or small tumour (often benign) grows in the gland where it causes an excess amount of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) to be produced. This in turns leads to an overproduction of cortisol in the horse’s body. Too much cortisol then leads to a hormonal imbalance, which can cause various health problems such as weight problems, weakened immune system and PPID.


If you suspect that your horse or pony is suffering from PPID then you need to contact your vet so that a diagnosis can be made.

Unfortunately, PPID is an incurable disease, but things can be done to help your horse or pony. There are veterinary medicines available so your vet may prescribe these. Of course, every horse and pony is different so the effectiveness of these medicines can vary. It may also be necessary to manage other issues caused by the disease, such as laminitis, excessive hair growth and secondary infections.


There is no specific way to prevent PPID. However, there are a few preventative measures which can be taken that may help:

  • Feed a balanced diet;

  • Keep sugar intake to a minimum;

  • Keep your horse at a healthy weight;

  • Keep your horse as stress free as possible;

  • Have regular veterinary check-ups.

These steps will help to keep your horse or pony as happy and healthy as possible, and not just in regard to PPID.

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