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What are the first signs of Cushings Disease in Horses?

Jan 25, 2024 | Newsletter

The first signs of Cushing’s Disease, also known as Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction (PPID), in horses can be subtle and often overlooked. However, early detection is important for effective management. Here are some of the initial signs:

  • Changes in Coat: A longer, thicker, or curly coat that does not shed as it normally would is one of the most common early signs. The coat may also appear dull.
  • Increased Thirst and Urination: Horses with Cushing’s often drink more water and, consequently, urinate more frequently.
  • Loss of Muscle Mass: This can be particularly noticeable along the topline or in the hindquarters.
  • Increased Susceptibility to Infections: These may include recurrent hoof abscesses, sinus infections, dental disease, and skin infections.
  • Lethargy: The horse may seem less energetic or have a decreased interest in exercise.
  • Abnormal Fat Deposits: Fat may accumulate in unusual places, such as above the eyes, around the tailhead, or in the sheath of male horses.
  • Behavioral Changes: Some horses may exhibit changes in their personality or behavior.
  • Decreased Athletic Performance: This can occur even before other symptoms are noticeable.
  • Irregular Heat Cycles in Mares: Mares may experience irregular or absent heat cycles.
  • Increased Appetite: Some horses with Cushing’s may have an increased appetite but still lose weight.

While magnesium supplementation is not a cure for Cushing’s Disease in horses, it can be beneficial in managing some of the metabolic and insulin-related issues that often accompany the disease. It’s important to work with a veterinarian to create a treatment plan that includes proper nutrition and possibly mineral supplementation.

There is a relationship between Cushing’s Disease (Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction, PPID) and magnesium deficiency in horses, although it’s important to note that the connection is often indirect and multifaceted:

  • Hormonal Imbalances: Cushing’s Disease in horses is characterized by a hormonal imbalance due to the overproduction of cortisol by the adrenal glands. This hormonal imbalance can affect the metabolism of various nutrients, including magnesium.
  • Stress Response: The elevated cortisol levels seen in Cushing’s Disease can be associated with a stress response in the body. Chronic stress can lead to depletion of magnesium, as the body uses more of this mineral during periods of stress.
  • Appetite Changes and Dietary Imbalances: Horses with Cushing’s may experience changes in appetite or dietary habits, which can lead to nutritional imbalances. If a horse with Cushing’s is not consuming a diet adequately balanced for minerals, including magnesium, this can result in a deficiency.
  • Increased Urination: Cushing’s Disease often leads to polyuria (increased urination), which can cause increased excretion of magnesium, potentially leading to a deficiency.
  • Age Factor: Both Cushing’s Disease and magnesium deficiency are more common in older horses. As horses age, their ability to absorb and retain nutrients, including magnesium, can decrease.
  • Interaction with Medications: The treatment for Cushing’s Disease in horses often involves medications like pergolide, which can, in some cases, affect nutrient absorption or metabolism, indirectly impacting magnesium levels.

Magnesium supplementation can play a role in managing symptoms associated with Cushing’s Disease (Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction, PPID) in horses, although it is not a direct treatment for the disease itself. If you’re considering magnesium supplementation for your horse, especially in managing conditions like Cushing’s Disease or Equine Metabolic Syndrome, Try MagRestore┬« from Performance Equine Nutrition. It’s designed to support your horse’s metabolic functions and overall health. Reach out to us to learn more about how our magnesium supplement can benefit your horse and to discuss the best options for your horse’s specific needs. Your horse’s well-being is our priority.

Could your horse be suffering from magnesium deficiency? We have designed a questionnaire to help you uncover a possible deficiency in your horse.