CUSHING'S SYNDROME IN HORSES
Cushing's Syndrome is well known in humans, cats and especially in dogs. It is also becoming more prevalent in horses, and yet there is little written about identifying it, and caring for horses who suffer from it. It is regarded as incurable in horses, though it is possible that horses can live reasonably happily for a long time whilst suffering from it.
CUSHING'S DISEASE IS HYPERADRENOCORTICISM
"Cushing's disease" is a term used in human medicine that refers to pituitary dependent hyperadrenocorticism. According to veterinary and human medical experts the disease is characterised by excessively high levels of steroids in the body. Steroids are compounds that circulate naturally in our bodies and our pets' bodies. Two major centres in the body regulate the levels of these steroids.
The main centre is a gland in the brain called the pituitary. This gland controls most of the hormones in the body. This disease is called hyperadrenocorticism.; (hyper = too much; adreno = adrenal gland; cort = cortex, the outer layer of the adrenal gland; ism = process). Blood tests often help the diagnosis of Cushing's Syndrome, and they indicate high levels of blood glucose. This would be similar to diabetes, which is very rare in horses, but is sometimes found in horses with Cushing's.
In dogs and cats
There are times when the steroid control in the body becomes deregulated and excess steroids are present. Clinical signs, in dogs, include drinking too much (polydypsia), urinating a lot (polyuria), eating a lot (polyphagia), hair loss, pigmentation of the skin, enlarged abdomen due to an enlarged liver, lethargy, etc. In dogs and cats there appear to be effective treatments, which may include the use of steroids to balance the steroid level in the body.
Treatment is difficult, and often there appears to be no practical and economic cure in bad cases, but the following ideas may be ways of helping your horse to be more comfortable and enabling her/him to live, sometimes actively, for quite some time.