Horse Tested Positive For Cushings Disease - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 7 Old 08-08-2012, 04:22 PM Thread Starter
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Horse Tested Positive For Cushings Disease

I posted about a month or two ago about my horse showing signs of cushings or thyroid disease. I ended up having bloodwork done on my horse to test for both and he did infact come back with positive results for cushings. He had two tests done in one day and for the results he got an 8% when normal should be 35% but he tested normal range for thyroid which I forget the actual numbers and he is not insulin resistant which is good. Since I posted he has finally lost most of his coat but has lost weight, which my vet said is because of the cushings. He is going to be put on medicine, I also forget what he's going to be put on. He is only 12 years old and he is the second youngest horse she's ever had tested positive for cushings. So now I will be dealing with both Navicular Disease and Cushings, with both issues having no real cure :(

I don't know a whole lot about cushings except that it's caused from a brain tumor and my vet said it could also be genetic. What has been your experience with the disease and how much has it changed your horse since being diagnosed?
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post #2 of 7 Old 08-08-2012, 04:36 PM
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I don't have a horse with Cushings, but it's not caused by a brain tumor, it's caused by the pituitary gland at the base of the brain over producing hormones.

As far as Cushings being genetic, that's very possible. Considering that diabetes in humans is inheritable, it would make sense that IR/Cushings horses inherited it from their sire and dam.

Your horse is probably on pergolide. That's the normal medication used with Cushings horses.

You want the truth? You can't HANDLE the truth!
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post #3 of 7 Old 08-08-2012, 07:14 PM
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Yes, it's a malfunction of the pituitary gland.

You need to get your horse off any and all grains and no treats, including NO apples or carrots as they're full of sugar.

The strict diet for these types of horses may actually have some benefit for the navicular, as well

Please go to this website and read as you have time. It's a credible place to get good information.

Equine Cushing's and Insulin Resistance Information

Dr. Kellon also has a Yahoo Equine Cushings Group that is free to join.

EquineCushings : Equine Cushings and Insulin Resistance

You can also join, for free and search their archives for credible information on cushings

The vet probably wants to put your horse on either Prascend (a newly approved drug) or Pergolide.

Keeping the hooves properly trimmed, frequently, is crucial with cushings disease, as it is with navicular.

However fast your horse's hooves grow, horses with metabolic issues seem to grow hoof faster, so you might want to monitor hoof growth a closer than what you're used to.

Wall separation can be an issues. Tendency toward thrush can now be issue. Scratches and rainrot might become issues.

Not WILL be an issue, but CAN, as the horse's immune system is compromised.

Add some extra Vitamin E to whatever high quality ration balancer or vitamin/mineral supplement you are feeding.

Be prepared to clip more than once during the warm months.

It is constant monitoring and constant work to manage these horses but, they can have a productive and happy life with the proper care.

Which that care is not written in black and white What works today may not work next week, next month, or next year.

I have two metabolic horses, neither have cushings, I've changed diets and herbs so many times since 2007 that I've lost count.
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post #4 of 7 Old 08-08-2012, 07:18 PM
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My pony, Bandit, was diagnosed with Cushings. It is indeed a malfuction of the pituitary gland and pergolide is the usual treatment.

Bandit was lethargic and didn't shed his winter coat. After the pergolide had a chance to work, he was like a new horse again. He started shedding normally and acted like 2 year old. We got several more years out of him before the disease eventually worsened and we had to put him down.

We got our pergolide from a veterinary compounding facility. It was in liquid form and significantly cheaper than getting it from a drug store or vet clinic. If you are looking for a cheaper source for it, please let me know and I'll look up the company's name/web address.
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post #5 of 7 Old 08-08-2012, 08:53 PM Thread Starter
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@Speed Racer- Thank you for clearing up the cause of cushings. You're probably right on the meds that he'll be on, I don't recall my vet mentioning the name but said I'll have to call a pharmacy for the meds and that we'll start him on a dose of 1.75 and see how he does from there.

@walkinthewalk- Thanks for the links, i'll be sure to read them. As far as his diet goes I currently have him on 1 flake of alfalfa in the morning, half a flake in the afternoon and 1 flake in the evening. I also feed him 1 scoop of rice bran pellets as supplement and to mix his current meds in. My vet has mentioned that with not bein insilin resistant that I won't need to change the food but up it. So she said to start with upping him to 2 scoops of rice bran instead of one and see how he does once he's on the medicine. He's lost weight but isin't super skinny but I think by winter I'll have to up at least his lunch time feeding.

And before I found out about the positive cushings I switched his shoeing scheduele from every 8 weeks to 6 weeks as chunks of his hoofs were breaking off and I was worried it could cause issues with his navicular. He also had really bad thrush which my farrier dug out and we have since bee treating with Thrush Buster. I didn't know about the positive cushings when I changed his shoeing but I'm glad I did, since the possibility of cushings being the cause does make sense now that I know what he has.

Another thing that he gets that's on your list is scratches. I've known them to be common among horses when their legs don't get dried off, but now that I have him tested for cushings also makes sense of why he has them, even though I don't dry his legs off but now I guess I should.

And one more thing that he's had this summer is his coat not shedding which was my first sign that something was not right with him, and now I am so glad I went with my gut feeling and got him tested.

@nickelodeon- I' sorry to hear that Bandit was also tested positive for cushings, I'm so sorry to hear that you had to put him down, though it souds like you did everything you possibly could for him over the years.

And as far as cost wise for the medicine I work at a small animal vet so I'm going to try and see if I can get it from my work. But for this first time I'll order it from my vet's pharmacy number once they call me with the contact information.
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post #6 of 7 Old 08-09-2012, 03:37 AM
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I've got a couple of clients that reckon their horses are 'back to normal' after a while on Pergolide. I also have a couple who have reported great improvement with Chasteberry. I have one client who had her pony on Pergolide & no apparent changes. I have a number of clients with suspected or confirmed Cushings horses that do nothing like that too. I suppose the treated ones will live longer & certainly the small number I have had personal experience with is no where near enough for any kind of objective comment, but I personally couldn't tell you the difference between the medicated & non-medicated ones, from coat, eye brightness, energy or such. But then I also only see them once a month, if that.

SoCal, while cushings isn't cureable, I wouldn't go so far as to say that about 'navicular', depending on what you mean by 'cureable'. It is certainly possible to return the horse to a state of soundness & usefulness, although IME conventional treatments tend to be short term palliative measures at best. Look at for more info.
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post #7 of 7 Old 08-09-2012, 10:40 AM
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You've already gotten some good info.

I know it seems scary but it's a very manageable condition, he probably doesn't realize anything is off and is totally manageable! The only problem I've come across with Cushings is sometimes it takes a bit of trail and error to see what works and how well in terms of diet. Most of the horses I know with Cushing's are in regular work - except for one. He's a rescue and was starved so his job right now is to get to a normal weight.
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