Equine Cushings

Pars Pituitary Intermedia Disorder (PPID), or “Equine Cushings,” is an endocrine (hormone) disorder stemming from enlargement and overactivity of the pituitary gland, which is located in the brain. This causes a hormone called ACTH to be released in excess of normal amounts, and these higher hormone levels can affect horses in several different ways. This disease typically affects horses that are older than 14, but the disease is found in younger horses as well. PPID is a chronic, degenerative condition in horses. When identified early and treated appropriately, horses with PPID can continue to lead comfortable and productive lives.

Common signs of a horse with PPID:

  • Persisting winter coat into the warmer months, slower to shed out
  • Rougher, duller and longer-haired coat
  • Long “beard” or guard hairs
  • Muscle wasting/lack of top-line
  • Dropped “hay” belly
  • Uneven fat deposits
  • Immune function impairment- recurrent foot abscesses, skin conditions, dental disease, and corneal ulcers
  • Drinking and urinating more frequently
  • Dull and lethargic
  • Laminitis

Health risks associated with PPID

  • Laminitis
  • Thick and long hair coat can lead to heat stress in warmer weather
  • Decreased performance and exercise intolerance
  • Diminished immune system and chronic infections
  • Tendinitis and desmitis


Your veterinarian will collect a comprehensive history and perform a detailed physical examination; following this, they may recommend lab testing:

  • PPID may be diagnosed by measuring baseline levels of ACTH in the blood
  • Some horses with early PPID require a “stimulation” test to determine if their pituitary gland responds abnormally to hormonal stimulation and releases excessive amounts of ACTH; this is called a “TRH Stimulation Test”

Often, it is important to measure additional metabolic markers to check for concurrent insulin dysregulation and equine metabolic syndrome, as this will impact the management of PPID.

Management and treatment options

  • Evaluate the horse’s diet and nutrition in conjunction with your veterinarian
  • Regular clipping in particularly hairy areas to reduce heat stress in hot months
  • Regular farrier work
    Regular exercise to keep muscle and avoid fatty deposits
  • Medication may be prescribed by your veterinarian to help reduce excess ACTH and alleviate clinical signs

What we do

If you feel like your horse may be predisposed to PPID or show any of the symptoms above, our doctors at Rhythm would love to meet your horse and see what we can do to help keep them more comfortable.

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