I’ve been treating a lot of supposed Cushing horses lately.
The diagnosis has not been confirmed in a single case, so it is very important to me to examine this terrible diagnosis more closely.
For many veterinarians, the external signs such as shaggy curly fur, a bad fur shedding, strong shoveling of the fur, a change in the muscles, weakness, sweating, laminitis or a sagging belly suffice as suspicious factors.
Usulally a blood count is taken and an elevated ACTH value is then evidence of the Cushing.
They prescribe Prascend, Pergolidmesilat or Corticosal novalis and that’s it.
However, the horses are still getting worse and mostly they are „switched off“, depressed, listless, lacking in joie de vivre through these drugs, often with colic and gastrointestinal problems.
Veterinarians say that a degeneration of the pituitary gland, like a tumor, would increase the release of ACTH.
However, this is only one of the possible causes for the increase in ACTH.
The concentration of ACTH fluctuates with the time of day:
There is a lot of ACTH in the blood in the morning, less in the evening.
ACTH is a classical stress hormone.
With stress such as psychological or physical stress, pain, cold, illness, injuries, malnutrition ACTH is increasingly released.
For some horses it is already so stressful to take blood that this alone becomes one cause to an increased ACTH value.
Permanent pain and stress due to stomach problems, management, improper horse keeping, sensitivity, painful tension, dental problems, osteoarthritis, kissing spines, parasites, out of balance metabolism, malnutrition, excessive energy supply etc. increase the ACTH value and thus also the cortisol release, which is then showed in Cushing symptoms.
Conclusion: please always look for causes of pain and stress and turn them off at all levels before you accept a Cushing diagnosis.