What Is Cushing's Disease in Horses?

Written by rena sherwood | 13/05/2017
What Is Cushing's Disease in Horses?
(Image from Wikimedia Commons.)

When horses and ponies get older, they are prone to several health problems, including Cushing's disease (also called Cushing's syndrome or pituitary dependent hyperadrenocorticism). All older horses and ponies are susceptible to getting it, no matter what their breed. Cushing's disease is not contagious. It can also appear in humans, dogs and cats.


Cushing's syndrome is caused when the pituitary gland grows a tumour and produces too many steroid hormones for the body.

Early Symptoms

Early symptoms include a vast increase in thirst and a subsequently vast increase in urination. The horse also tires easy and grows a long, brittle, curly coat.

Later Symptoms

Later symptoms include weight loss or weight gain, tooth loss, sway back (especially in ponies), infertility and a development of the potentially fatal hoof condition laminitis.


According to The Complete Equine Veterinary Manual, the best medications are Bromocriptine, cyproheptadine hypochloride and peroglide mesylate.

Diet Changes

In order to have the medications work their best, changes are needed in the diet, including making mashes of grain and cutting back on treats. Acupuncture and herbal treatments have also helped, according to experts.

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