Cushings Disease also known as Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction, is caused by abnormal function of part of the Pituitary Gland, a small gland at the base of the horses brain, which is controlled by a part of the brain, the Hypothalamus. In times of stress or disease extra steroid hormone is required by the body, the Hypothalamus stimulates the Pituitary Gland to secrete Ardeno Cortico Trophic Hormone, this via the bloodstream stimulates the Adenal Glands to produce the hormone Cortisol, this hormone prepares the body for stressful events.
In horses with Cushings Disease the abnormal function of the Pituitary Gland produces large amounts of Adreno Cortico Trophic Hormone, this stimulates the Adrenal Glands to produce large amounts of steriod hormone that causes the signs associated with Cushings Disease. As a healthy horse gets older the Pituitary Gland which has been under control may start to fail. Until recently it was thought that Cushings Disease was only associated with older horses but recent research has shown that much younger horses than previously thought can be effected.
Some of the common symptoms include Laminitis, excessive or abnormal hair growth, delayed shedding of winter coat, increased thirst and urination, despite weight loss an increased appetite and lethargy, a longer thicker coat that fails to shed, and a pot-bellied appearance. Delayed wound healing and recurrent infections could be symptoms.
Recent research has shown that Cushings Disease cases have high levels of insulin after eating feeds containing glucose, High blood levels of insulin will cause Laminitas. Laminitis is often a warning that Cushings Disease may be present. Unfortunately due to the nature of the disease it can be controlled rather than reversed. With the correct treatment by controlling the blood insulin levels however the horse may still lead an active life.
For more information about Cushings Disease go to :- www.laminitis.org/cushings