Cushings disease is also known as Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction (PPID). In Cushings, the pituitary gland acts abnormally, causing irregular production of hormones. The hormonal imbalances then lead to several symptoms, including lethargy, abdominal obesity and excessive sweating. The disease doesn’t currently have a cure. The best treatment for Cushings in horses involves an approach that includes managing the symptoms and hormonal imbalances associated with it. Cushings is very common in middle-aged to older horses (18-23 years), and it causes great discomfort for them.
The symptoms and presentations of the disease are often confused with another condition, called Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS). EMS is a condition characterized by laminitis and obesity, two of the hallmarks of Cushings disease. In the next segment, we’ll discuss the diagnosis and treatment of Cushings disease.
Guide on Treatments for Cushings in Horses
What Are the Symptoms of Cushings Disease in Horses?
The symptoms of Cushings disease are a direct or indirect result of the hormonal imbalance created by the pituitary gland. Some of them include:
- Hypertrichosis (Abnormal and excessive hair growth)
- Delayed shedding
- Muscle wasting
- Development of pot belly, also known as abdominal obesity
- A decrease in athletic performance
- Impaired insulin sensitivity
- Increased drinking and urination
- Abnormal sweating
The symptoms of Cushings disease tend to worsen over time if the condition is not treated. Sometimes, it gets so bad that some horses may need to be euthanized to prevent further pain and discomfort.
How Is Cushings Disease Diagnosed?
Depending on the severity and advancement of the disease, the diagnosis of Cushings disease can be fairly straightforward. A long wavy haircoat, laminitis, muscle wasting and other symptoms may be enough to identify the disease. This is especially true in advanced stages of Cushings. In earlier stages, however, diagnosis can be very difficult to determine.
The two most practical tests for Cushings in horses are
- The Dexamethasone suppression test
- Measurement of Plasma Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) concentration.
The Dexamethasone suppression test aims to identify the cortisol levels in the horse’s blood stream before and after a dexamethasone injection. In normal horses, a dexamethasone injection suppresses the production of cortisol by the adrenal glands. However, in horses suffering from Cushings, no suppression of cortisol will be observed.
The second test involves measuring the amount of ACTH in the blood of the horse. Since the pituitary gland secretes abnormal quantities of ACTH, its levels should be higher, compared to normal horses. If it isn’t the result may be enough to form a concrete diagnosis of the condition.
How Is Cushings Disease Treated?
As we’ve discussed earlier, Cushings disease doesn’t have a cure; it can only be managed. As a result, proper care involves a combination of drugs, dieting, supplements, and general care. Here’s a breakdown of some of the measures recommended for caring for horses with Cushings.
Horses with Cushings normally experience an insensitivity to insulin. As a result, you should avoid feeding them traditional grains, treats, or even pasture. Instead, the nutritional requirement should be met using supplements like minerals and vitamins. A low-sugar, high-fiber feed is also a good idea.
Horses with Cushings should be regarded as special needs animals. As a result, special considerations like regular veterinarian visits and up to date vaccinations need to be made. You also need to pay attention to other cares like deworming, dental health, hoof care, and other maintenance care.
Top 7 Best Treatment for Cushings in Horses
Above all others, two FDA approved drugs for treating Cushings in animals are very popular. They are Trilostane (Vetoryl) and Mitotane (Lysodren). Mitotane is quite old, and most veterinarians don’t prescribe it anymore. The drug causes several side effects, including lethargy, vomiting and diarrhea. Additionally, it’s very short-acting. Mitotane is a much more effective drug for treating Cushings, although it’s more expensive than Trilostane.
Even though these drugs are popular, they are for treating Cushings disease in other pets like cats and dogs. Prascend is the only drug approved for treatment Cushings in horses. However, your veterinarian may prescribe other drugs, depending on the condition of your horse. Before you seek out any drugs for the condition, you need to schedule a checkup with your vet. They can advise you on many things, including whether or not your horse actually has Cushings disease.
The products that we will be reviewing are mostly dietary supplements that have been approved for the management of the condition. They tackle many of the symptoms of Cushings disease in horses. Since Cushings is largely without a cure, supplements that alleviate the symptoms and make the horse more comfortable are your best options.
NHV Supraglan Dietary Supplement
Manufactured by NHV, this Cushings disease supplement is more of a dietary supplement than a drug. However, it contains active substances that can support animals’ body systems and treat Cushings. Supraglan is recommended for treating adrenal dysfunction, which as you know, is one of the effects of the disease.
It also promotes the growth of a healthy coat, as well as improves overall metabolism and resistance to stress. These are all important because Cushings disease makes horses easily fatigued. Supraglan is gotten from herbs that are rich in all sorts of beneficial nutrients, vitamins and minerals.
NHV Supraglan was also formulated with ingredients that tackle many of the symptoms of Cushings disease, like hair loss, skin darkening, and abdominal obesity. The supplement is suitable for many animals, including dogs and cats.
Best Friends Cush Away
Specifically designed for dogs with Cushings, this supplement contains ingredients that can suppress excess corticosteroid production. Its action is very important because the supplement essentially cuts the disease off at the source. It reduces the impact of all of its symptoms. Cush Away is one of the best and most effective treatments for Cushings disease available today.
It contains three main active ingredients, which are, Phosphatidylserine, Melatonin, and Superior HMR lignans. This unique blend of ingredients is responsible for the supplement’s ability to suppress the excessive production of corticosteroids. Cush Away also contains probiotic bacteria that can improve the digestion and absorption of food eaten by the horse.
Cush Away was developed as a supplement for treating Cushings in dogs, but it is just as effective in horses. You just need to increase the dosage to match your horse’s weight and metabolism. The dosage adjustment is one of the reasons why you need to consult with your vet before administering any treatments.
Prana Pets Adrenal Support
Prana Pets Adrenal Support is aimed at supporting the adrenal glands. But, this doesn’t mean it ignores the other organs. The supplement was formulated to provide comprehensive support and balance for the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, as well as the adrenal glands. These three organs are known as the HPA axis.
Adrenal support is 100% organic and is manufactured from plants and herbs. Its active ingredients are extracted and distilled into this wonder-working supplement in a unique patented blend. As a result of this painstaking process of creation, Adrenal support doesn’t just suppress the symptoms of Cushings disease. It also actively restores balance to the animal’s body.
Some of the herbs extracted into this supplement include Ashwagandha, Astragalus, Burdock, and Cleavers (Galium aparine). As a testament to its incredible effects, the product has received glowing reviews from users all over the world. Adrenal support may not contain Trilostane or Mitotane, but, it’s very effective in managing the condition.
PetAlive Complete Cushex ComboPack
From the name, you can tell that this product is filled with amazing benefits for your horse. PetAlive boasts of a two-part approach to treating Cushings. The first a relief from the symptoms and the second is providing balance to the adrenal glands.
In managing the symptoms, PetAlive reduces stomach upset, nausea, indigestion, vomiting and heartburn. It also protects the horse from the effects of overexposure to high cortisol levels. Some of its other actions include a healthier, shinier skin, higher energy levels, and even blood pressure regulation.
PetAlive also boasts of containing the finest ingredients, extracted from premium herbs. Its source materials were grown without any chemical inputs, solvents or preservatives. PetAlive isn’t as popular as some of the other supplements on this list, but it is just as effective. If you need a supplement that addresses the symptoms and causes of Cushings in your horse, this is the supplement for the job.
Dr. Dobias GreenMin All-Natural Mineral Supplement
Unlike the other supplements on this list, Dr. Dobias is not specifically for Cushings disease. However, it has all the ingredients that you need to effectively address the condition in your horse. It is full of antioxidants that help to fight oxidative stress in the horse and promote good immune system support.
Dr. Dobias is also loaded with amino acids like lysine and threonine that support muscle mass and tissue repair. This supplement has so many amazing benefits. It gives horses better energy and stamina, as well as more mobility and joint health. It also promotes water retention.
This is one of those supplements that’s recommended even if your horse doesn’t have Cushings disease. It boosts the animal’s general functionality, and helps it live a better and healthier life. It is also a good addendum to any other treatments and supplements your horse might be taking.
Vetflix Adrenal Balance
Vetflix is one of the most reputable manufacturers of pet supplements. Some of its widely known products are Vetflix glucosamine and Vetflix pet vitamins. Vetflix Adrenal Balance, in particular, meets and surpasses the standards set by their other products. It is a very effective adrenal support supplement and it works by regulating the amount of cortisol secreted by the adrenal glands.
Vetflix also tackles symptoms associated with Cushings disease, including controlling thirst and urination. Additionally, it stimulates appetite and promotes skin regeneration. Vetflix is manufactured using only the finest ingredients, extracted from herbs. It’s 100% organic nature makes it side-effect free and safe for all animals, including small pets like cats and dogs.
Specifically, some of the ingredients in this supplement include Ashwagandha, Licorice Root, and Astragalus. The supplement is manufactured in an FDA approved facility, and is a USA-Approved herbal Pet Tincture. Besides an FDA approval, Vetflix is also approved by several veterinarians in the United States, which is a good thing. Afterall, if you’re going to feed a supplement to your horse, it might as well be one that’s recommended by vets.
Pet Wellbeing Adrenal Harmony
Like all the other supplements on this list, Pet Wellbeing is manufactured from 100% organic herbs and products. The supplement acts holistically, addressing the symptoms of the disease, as well as their causes. It provides support for the adrenal glands by regulating the release of hormones in the body.
The key to using Pet Wellbeing is to get the right dosage. The product was initially designed for dogs and cats, and so, you need to adjust for your horse. Even though the product doesn’t have any side effects, you should consult your vet when administering it with any prescribed medication.
Pet Wellbeing is manufactured using a patent-pending formula specifically designed to address Cushings disease. Some of the ingredients include fresh Ashwagandha root, Holy Basil leaf, Fresh Turmeric Rhizome, and Bacopa Herb.
Our Final Recommendation on Treating Cushings in Horses
The first and most important line of action in treating horses with Cushings is to get a proper diagnosis. The condition has symptoms that closely resemble other diseases, including Equine Metabolic Syndrome. So, you need to identify what you’re treating before you begin. After a diagnosis, a treatment plan that involves the prescription of Prascend is usually the next course of action. Other adjunctive interventions, like dieting, and special considerations are also recommended.
Among the adjunctive interventions, supplements are some of the best treatment for Cushings in horses. Specifically, the products listed above are just what your horse needs to stay active. Prana Pets Adrenal support, for example, has been shown to be very effective in managing the symptoms of the disease. It also regulates the adrenal function, balancing the level of hormones in the horse’s body. On the other hand, Dr. Dobias GreenMin All-Natural Mineral Supplement provides a complete systemic support for horses. It contains everything from antioxidants to ingredients that can restore the horse’s strength.