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Equine Cushings Disease
 By Saferaphus   •   2nd Feb 2017   •   410 views   •   0 comments
Equine Cushings Disease

There are a few breeds of horses that have naturally curly coats. The curled coat of these horses is most obvious in the winter months and is due to a specific gene. The wave or curl range from just curled fetlock and ear hair and a wavy mane and tail all the way to crazy curly manes and tails, curled eyelashes and a wavy coat, even in summer. These horses are born this way and stay with whatever degree of curliness they have during their entire lives. There are horses, however, that become curly coated. This is not because of a gene, however, but is caused by a condition commonly called Cushing’s Disease.

There are a few different names for Cushing Disease. The scientific name is Pars Pituitary Intermedia Dysfunction or PPID. And to make it horse-specific, it is called Equine Cushing’s Disease or ECD since other mammals, including humans, can develop the condition.

Unlike their genetically curly-coated brethren, horses with Cushing's Disease often grow a long, wavy or curled coat that does not shed out in the spring. Even in the most tropical weather, a horse with Cushing's may be covered in a dense, fluffy coat of hair. The winter coat may shed out, but it’s immediately replaced by an equally thick summer coat.

Related: Is Grass the Culprit of Cushings Disease

A thick curly coat is one of the most obvious symptoms of Cushing's, but certainly not the only one. A horse with Cushing's can grow a large pot belly similar to a hay belly. The hollow above the horse’s eyes may become puffy, rather than sunken in. The horse’s weight may be hard to maintain, either becoming easily obese or losing too much weight. Tooth and hoof abscesses may become more frequent and laminitis more likely. The horse may be very thirsty, and to shed the water will urinate much more frequently. It may catch other illnesses more easily and take longer to recover due to disruptions with its immune system. Wounds may take longer to heal. The horse may lack energy especially In hot weather, when the horse may suffer because of its long, woolly coat.

Cushing’s can be caused by two things. A horse may develop a non-cancerous tumor in the area of the pituitary gland that can affect the gland’s function. Or, the neurons, the nerves that send messages, into the hypothalamus start to break down. In either case, the glands enlarge and become overactive, producing more hormones than normal. This, in turn, causes more cortisol to be sent into the body. Cortisol is good, helping to regulate the immune system and fight inflammation when the body is in emergency mode. But the unregulated release of cortisol is what triggers the symptoms of Cushing's.

The onset of Cushing’s usually occurs in older horses. The disease can progress very slowly and not much can be done to prevent it. Many of the more subtle symptoms can be easily mistaken for other problems, so an owner may not know the horse has the condition for quite some time. The sooner the disease is recognized, the better.

Although there is no cure, the symptoms can be managed. Horses will need a low-sugar diet with high fiber and feed. Extra attention has to be paid to even small injuries because the horse may heal slower and be more prone to infection. Vaccinations too, are important to protect the horse against infectious disease. During warm weather, a horse with a Cushing’s coat may be more comfortable if it is clipped short. And a veterinarian can give advice about care and medical treatment that will help keep the horse comfortable and healthy.
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