My Mare has Cushings - Now What? - The Horse Forum
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  • 2 Post By walkinthewalk
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post #1 of 9 Old 07-21-2016, 08:44 PM Thread Starter
Green Broke
Join Date: Feb 2012
Location: Alberta, Canada
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My Mare has Cushings - Now What?

My 18 year old arab was just diagnosed by the vet as conclusively having cushings desease.

2 years ago she had a gorgeous colt and all was normal. The next spring she took a bit longer than usual to shed out and she never lost her brood mare belly. She was bred in June and didn't catch. This spring she was very slow to shed out and still has the belly, despite not being overly fat. She still has a thick coat. So in she went for testing. Some medication is on its way, it will cost around $100 a month to maintain.

So what am I to expect? She's 18. Never foundered.
Life span?
Can she still be used regularly?
Anyone else dealt with this?

This mare gave me my confidence back, gave me a stunning colt which will be my next saddle horse, has taught my baby sister to really ride and is a trusted baby sitter with weaned and orphaned babies. She deserves a great quality of life and a dignified death.
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post #2 of 9 Old 07-21-2016, 09:10 PM
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Sorry to hear. However, my neighbor has a 30 yr old who has had cushings for several years (sorry, I don't know exactly how many). He's fine and is still occasionally ridden by a 12 yr old girl for lessons. Mostly though, he is a pasture pet because of his age.

Hopefully someone else will tell you stories of cushings horses living to a ripe old age. Most likely you'll just have to watch what she eats and keep her on meds.
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post #3 of 9 Old 07-21-2016, 09:14 PM
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It's VERY common, it's usually not even a really big deal. Big breath!

Ask the vet about testing for Insulin Resistance. They tend to go hand in hand and IR is much more of a headache. Other than that you do need to watch her for laminitis and such but no need to go overboard. Just make sure she has proper management, get her levels tested regularly!! Even with "normal" levels you often will still see some of the effects and it just means their body isn't quite balanced. They may get cold after a shower on an 80 degree sunny day for example, just be aware. Plan on clipping in the summer.

Life span depends on your horse, for most horses the diagnosis really isn't a huge deal. Do keep in mind you are not TREATING the problem, just helping to manage the symptoms. Make sure you test and adjust the medication as needed and enjoy her.

Absolutely keep on using her!

I would recommend just treating her like any other old horse (I understand Arabs really aren't "old" at that age, but think of her as if she is with this diagnosis). Don't ride her hard, give her some extra pampering. Do treat her as IR even if she's not to be safe (produces a healthier horse either way).

Sounds like you should talk to your vet more. Do some google research. I only knew the basics until my own horse was diagnosed a few years back and now I know tons of random details just due to looking into it! There are several good sites, groups, I'm sure someone else can post.

It's estimated up to 30% of older horses have this problem and often aren't diagnosed because the symptoms mimic regular aging symptoms (not shedding well, getting cold easily, etc, nothing shocking in a healthy older horse!). That is also why I say to treat her as "old", be kind. You aren't alone, it's very common, and really isn't the huge deal it used to be. I panicked when my gelding was diagnosed (due to sudden laminitis) but it really hasn't made a difference for him aside from the daily medication. (Though he does have foot issues due to IR but plenty do not!) Like I said, big breath.

What are you doing with her now? I'd just keep on doing it, though I wouldn't be breeding, but light riding/pasture buddy absolutely. It's not a death sentence, at all, these days.

She will probably continue to lose topline and not quite shed out in the summer even with proper medication. I wouldn't be surprised if she became a harder keeper, just keep in mind not to pour sugar/starch into her to fix that!
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post #4 of 9 Old 07-22-2016, 10:37 AM
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What Yogi said.

To add further to that:

1. Visit the Equine Cushings & Insulin Resistance Group There's a lot of good information and help on that website. It is free to join.

2. Absolutely no grain and the mare may also benefit from no-soy (soy is used in 99% of feeds & ration balancers as a protein source.

3. Everything as low starch as possible because, when you add up the cumulative NSC of hay, grass, feed, it can be well over the acceptable limit for a horse with PPID and/or metabolic issues.

4. You may have noticed the mare tires faster. It has been my observation with my metabolic horses and my friends' horses with both Cushings/IR that they start out with normal energy and all of a sudden it's like someone punctured the balloon and they quickly lose energy.

Mild exercise is great as long as she is ridable.

5. Might also need to shorten the time frame between hoof trims -- even if it means the farrier has nothing to do but rasp and keep the hooves from flaring.

Mine are trimmed every four weeks. Depending on growth rate your mare might be ok with 5-6 weeks.

6. No sugar treats. That includes carrots and apples. There's more sugar in carrots than apples.

6.1 Buy quality grass hay - locally grown horse hay if that's possible. First or second cut doesn't matter at all -- it's time of day the hay is cut that matters for keeping the WSC & NSC low.

7. How many years a horse can go with cushings depends on each horse and also the care it receives. Some live well into their late 20's/early 30's, while others might only make it a few years.

Early discovery and treatment also play a role. Some people live in denial for a long time before getting help and thus shorten the horse's life.

Read credible articles, ask questions. Knowledge & treatment methods have come a long way since the horse in my avatar was diagnosed with Equine Metabolic Syndrome in 2007. EMS is more of a relative of cushings than insulin resistance.

He lived seven more years but it was strangulating lipomas that took him, not the EMS. I had the EMS well under control and he had never foundered, never needed a grazing muzzle but I did shorten his pasture time.

Keep asking questions, what works for one horse may not work for another or the dosages may be different. You may have to experiment at first, to get diet and drugs regulated but just take a deep breath, throw your shoulders back, one foot in front of the other, and before you know it, things will level out.

However -- you will always have to keep one eye on alert for even the slightest change in the horse:)
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A Good Horseman Doesn't Have To Tell Anyone; The Horse Already Knows.

I CAN'T ride 'em n slide 'em. I HAVE to lead 'em n feed 'em Thnx cowchick77.
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post #5 of 9 Old 07-23-2016, 07:21 PM
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I have a mare on Prascend which seems to be working fine in as much as she's not had a laminitis attack since she started on it but was getting uncontrollable attacks before - she initially didn't test positive and then vet sent a test off to a different Lab and it came back confirming she had it
She's never tested positive for IR but I still keep her on a low starch/low sugar diet
She's in her early 20's now and still otherwise fit and sound enough to be worked - actually full of energy now she's on the medication
I have had a few times when I've had to 'juggle' the dose, once when she got diarrhea at the start of taking it and the end of last summer when she got wayyyyyyyyyyy too high energy and reactive to be safe to ride or for her own good
Her coat is still thicker than it should be and I've had to clip her this summer but its no way as thick and long as it was last year and its also gone back to being silky and soft again because it had gone really dull and coarse
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post #6 of 9 Old 07-24-2016, 04:37 AM
Green Broke
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My mare is 25 and has Cushing's. My vet is conservative about starting on medication so we only started her on the Prascend a year and a half ago, although I saw mild symptoms gradually progressing for the past four years. We began at 0.5 mg daily and I increased the dose to 1 mg. daily just a couple weeks ago.

I agree with Walkinthewalk about the diet and etc. However, you should be aware that there are some horses with Cushing's that do not have insulin resistance and may never have it, in which case they are not prone to laminitis and do not need their NSC levels regulated closely. It is best to be safe if you don't know, but my mare is not IR, has great hooves and has never had laminitis. She can have apples and carrots, and is out on pasture without a grazing muzzle. What I do regulate closely is her weight, and do not let her become obese by managing how much hay she gets.

You are managing the symptoms with the medication, but you also may be slowing the worsening of the disease. Thickening of the tissue or a tumor in the pituitary causes the body to secrete abnormal levels of chemicals, and this also shuts down some normal functions such as dopamine production. Without enough dopamine, the pituitary is forced to work harder and creates more damage to the normal tissue, which makes the problem get progressively worse. So while you cannot stop what initially began the pituitary problem, and that may continue to worsen at an unknown rate (faster or slower in some horses), you can slow down the secondary worsening of pituitary function that happens as a result of the disease by helping replace the dopamine so the pituitary tissue is not being over stimulated or damaged (which is what Prascend does).

Many people say laminitis is the most important thing to prevent, but Cushing's horses that do not have IR and are untreated have either abnormally high or low cortisol levels too. That means their immune system cannot respond appropriately to stress or infection. Which is why Cushing's horses often die from a bad infection or pneumonia. My mare had both an abscess in her neck and pneumonia when she was a few years younger, and I'm guessing now those were the first signs of her Cushing's.

For my mare, the Prascend has helped her shed her coat better (but she still had some left in early June, which is why my vet increased her dose this year). Right now you would never guess she had Cushing's. Her pot belly went down and she has a nice topline, I think we caught her symptoms early enough for her to rebuild the muscling and I also make sure she has enough protein in her diet. She had developed Anhidrosis (lack of sweating) but now sweats normally. Her energy level is also better.

One thing to be aware of is that if your horse has allergies, they may get worse on the medication. That's because the disease depresses the immune system, so a horse that previously had allergies may have them react worse now that the immune system is able to respond better.

My mare was ridden hard until this year, and now is being ridden more lightly due to arthritis beginning to set in. Not related to her Cushing's.
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post #7 of 9 Old 07-24-2016, 08:55 PM
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"I agree with Walkinthewalk about the diet and etc. However, you should be aware that there are some horses with Cushing's that do not have insulin resistance and may never have it, in which case they are not prone to laminitis and do not need their NSC levels regulated closely. It is best to be safe if you don't know, but my mare is not IR, has great hooves and has never had laminitis. She can have apples and carrots, and is out on pasture without a grazing muzzle. What I do regulate closely is her weight, and do not let her become obese by managing how much hay she gets."

Yes, that is absolutely true, though I argue the "salad is healthy for everyone, not just health fanatics" ;). I did just want to say I have had several vets tell me that a horse with Cushings WITHOUT IR still needs to be watched more carefully than a "normal" horse and is still prone to issue (though not as dramatic as an IR horse of course). So I wouldn't say well if they don't have IR then go ahead and pour sweet feed in or whatever, one should still be very aware and careful. I don't think there's an actual reason behind it the way there is with IR, it's just something that is seen in ALL Cushings horses (though of course worse with any horse with IR Cushings or no) same as there is a link between Cushings and IR. Sorry for all the weird rhyming lol!
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post #8 of 9 Old 07-24-2016, 09:31 PM
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* "I don't think there's an actual reason behind it"

I should say "known to science" lol of course there is a reason! Just to say while you do not need to be AS careful it's good to be careful.
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post #9 of 9 Old 07-26-2016, 09:54 AM
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I have used some of these products from this vet and they worked very well for my horses. Also he is very nice and helpful! I would recommend doing this, and
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