How to spot it

How to spot the signs of Equine Cushing’s disease

Equine Cushing’s disease will cause varying combinations of signs from one horse or pony to another, so it is important to monitor for all of the clinical signs associated with this disease.

The early clinical signs of Cushing’s disease are often overlooked or simply put down to ‘old age’. These include the development of a pot belly and loss of topline over the back - both associated with reduced muscle mass and strength. Other signs develop as the disease progresses, including an excessively long hair coat, (‘hypertrichosis’), and delayed or even absent seasonal coat moulting.

If you spot any of these signs in your horse you can claim a complimentary test for Equine Cushing's disease by clicking on the “PPID Test” icon below

Symptoms

Muscle wastage

Muscle wastage

Muscle wastage is usually seen as a loss of topline over the back.  

The breed, athleticism and degree of fat covering your horse will affect how obvious this change is. In many horses carrying excess weight, the muscle underneath their fat is lost faster than the fat itself, meaning that the fat develops a ‘lumpy’ appearance.

Read more
Abnormal fat deposits

Abnormal fat deposits

Fat can develop in abnormal places: this is usually seen as a ‘pot belly’ and ‘fat pads’ over/around the eyes. 

 
Read more
Abnormal sweating

Abnormal sweating

Patchy or abnormal sweating patterns or abnormally high levels of sweating after low levels of exercise in cool temperatures are possible signs of Cushing’s disease to look out for.

 
Read more
Recurrent infections

Recurrent infections

Horses with Equine Cushing’s disease are more susceptible to infection.

They may show signs such as an infection that doesn’t respond to treatment as expected, an infection that keeps coming back, or a high worm burden.  Examples of this would be recurrent sinusitis, recurrent foot abscesses, chronic endometriosis, chronic periodontal disease (gum disease) etc.

Read more
Lethargy

Lethargy

Lethargy and reduced performance are two of the earliest signs associated with the onset of Equine Cushing’s disease. 

Lethargy can be difficult to spot as it’s onset is often very gradual, and older horses are expected to become lethargic as they age. Typical signs of lethargy to watch out for include your horse not enjoying exercise as they usually do, appearing less interested in their surroundings, or not interacting with you as they normally would.

Read more
Laminitis Rings

Laminitis

The signs of laminitis can vary from mild changes in the hooves through to severe lameness. 

Look at the self-test for laminitis on this page to find out more about spotting the signs of laminitis.

Read more
Increased thirst/urination

Increased thirst/urination

Increased thirst and urination can be challenging to spot.

Useful signs to watch for are a sudden change in the amount of bedding you need to keep the stable dry, or a change in how often you fill up the water trough.

Read more
Abnormal coat

Abnormal coat

This can be excessively long hair, (‘hypertrichosis’), and/or delayed or even absent coat moulting.

This sign is often more obvious in native breeds that usually have a very thick winter coat. In fine-coated breeds it is usually more subtle, however you may see excessively long hairs on the limbs, underneath the belly or neck, instead of an obviously long coat all over.

Early disease is associated with delayed moulting and patches of long hair, whereas advanced disease usually causes a more generalised long hair coat and complete loss of the seasonal moulting pattern.

Read more
Reduced fertility

Reduced fertility

Although mares with Equine Cushing’s disease may cycle regularly, it is thought that their fertility and therefore their ability to get in foal may be reduced.

 
Read more

A simple checklist of signs that may indicate your horse has had previous/current episodes of laminitis
Download checklist

A simple checklist of signs that may indicate your horse has Equine Cushing’s Disease, and information on how to monitor for these signs
Download checklist

If you recognise one or more of the signs of Equine Cushing’s disease in your horse, there are three simple steps you need to take to find out if they have the condition, and how to best manage the disease so that they continue to live a happy and healthy life. Find out more about what to do if you suspect your horse may have Equine Cushing’s disease.

What to do next