What is PPID? (formerly known as Equine Cushing’s Disease)


What is PPID? You may be more familiar with its former name, Cushing’s Disease.

PPID is a hormonal disease which tends to affect ponies and horses over the age of 15.

Note: Cushing’s is also a disease which can affect dogs and people, although equine Cushing’s is a different disease and has different symptoms.

It’s often the case that horses with PPID are more likely to suffer from recurrent Laminitis so it’s important that you look out for the signs of PPID so that you can seek veterinary advice and treatment as soon as possible.

PPID explained

PPID is a hormonal disease which is caused by changes in the pituitary gland located at the base of the brain. The pituitary gland is usually regulated by dopamine and its job is to produce hormones which are carried around the body by the bloodstream.

PPID occurs when there are insufficient levels of dopamine. This results in an unregulated pituitary gland which then produces too many hormones. As you can imagine, this can cause your horse many problems.

How to recognise PPID symptoms in your horse

  1. Laminitis – Your horse may suffer from recurrent laminitis
  2. Changes in your horse’s coat – called Hypertrichosis, you may start to see changes in coat shedding or the coat colour during the early stages of disease, or in later stages of the disease, a curly overgrown coat
  3. Changes in appearance due to abnormal fat distribution – look out for a pot belly, loss of muscle condition or a wasted top line
  4. Fat pads around the top of the tail and behind the eyes  – which may make your horse look pop-eyed
  5. Persistent sweating
  6. Increased drinking
  7. Excessive urination
  8. Lethargy/poor performance
  9. Recurrent infections – foot abscesses, sinusitis and respiratory system infections are common ones
  10. Production of milk in mares who have not had a foal

It could be easy to simply think some of these symptoms to be due to your horse just getting older, as some can appear gradually but don’t simply put these changes down to aging, they may be due to PPID.

What are the tests for PPID?

As always, if you notice a change in your horse’s behaviour or deterioration in their condition, contact your vet as soon as possible.

If your vet suspects PPID, they’ll take a blood test, however results are not always immediately conclusive, so don’t be surprised if your vet recommends re-testing your horse after 3 to 6 months.

Can PPID be treated?

PPID can’t be cured but the good news is, there is a drug with the ingredient pergolide which acts to normalise the hormone secretion from the pituitary gland into your horse’s bloodstream. This enables vets to effectively manage the symptoms of PPID in your horse.

This will need to be prescribed by your vet but you can buy it with a valid prescription from Animed Direct.

You should start to see an improvement in your horse’s condition within 1 – 3 months – it takes a while for hormones to settle down.

What ongoing care should you give a horse with PPID?

Diet: If your horse had PPID, you’ll want to maintain muscle tone whilst reducing the risk of associated side effects such as Laminitis. Talk to your vet about how to change their diet and nutrition to help as much as possible and get their advice. They can advise you on specialist feeds to consider.

Grooming: You’ll also need to pay particular attention to clipping, as you don’t want your horse to get too warm or sweat with a thick coat (there are clippers designed to get through thicker, coarse hair).

Oral health: Your horse will need to get the most nutrients from their feed and bad dental hygiene will affect their eating so you’ll want to prevent dental infections as much as possible.

Animed Direct can help you save on your regular horse and pet medication. Simply search for prescribed medication on our website, add it to your shopping basket then upload a valid prescription at the same time.

Don’t forget we offer a range of non-prescription items too such as worming, tick and flea treatments, plus a range of stable and health supplement staples.