If your have any suspicion that your horse, pony or donkey may be affected by Cushing's Disease and you would like to test them, vouchers can be obtained to cover the cost of the testing. Owners must generate the code and then give it to us either at the time of booking your visit or at the visit so we can apply this to your account. Vouchers can be obtained here. Please be aware visit and sampling fees apply.
Endocrine disease is a little known term; however, thanks to campaigns in the media to raise awareness, pretty much every horse owner is aware of two extremely common endocrine diseases: PPID, as known as Cushing's syndrome, and equine metabolic syndrome (EMS).
The reason these two diseases have become so prominent in the equine world is due to their link to laminitis. We now know that approximately 80% of laminitis is endocrinopathic in origin, i.e. is caused by either PPID, EMS or both. Trying to treat laminitis in a horse, pony or donkey with one or both of these conditions at its root, in isolation is akin to running up a downhill escalator! Laminitis is the one of the most devastating diseases that equines suffer from and management of these cases is not only hugely financially costly to owners, but also carries an enormous emotional cost too. Identifying and treating underlying causes of laminitis is imperative to successful management and improving outcomes.
Although both PPID and EMS are common place terms within the equine world, these are two very complicated diseases and it helps to understand a little more about both conditions, how they affect the horse and why treatment is important.
PPID (Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction)A huge amount of support is available for owners regarding PPID which clearly describes the disease, how to spot it and what you can do to help support your horse or pony once they have been diagnosed. The Care About Cushing's website is a great resource for owners and enables you to record and keep track of your horse's progress.
Other useful resources include these two checklists to help you identify whether your animal is at risk of endocrinopathic laminitis or PPID itself. If, after completing either of these checklists, you believe that testing your horse for PPID is worthwhile we are still able to offer vouchers to cover the laboratory fees of your animal's initial blood test. Vouchers are best generated by owners from the Talk About Laminitis website - another great resource.
EMS (Equine Metabolic Syndrome)EMS is the second endocrine disease contributing to laminitis in the equine population. This syndrome is subject to much ongoing research so the depth of our understanding of it, specifically regarding its diagnosis and management, is changing day by day. Although it feels like there is a huge focus on PPID, the Talk About Laminitis website provides some information regarding this syndrome and the role it plays in laminitis, and more information on the very complicated topic of insulin resistance can be found at The Laminitis Site.
Very simply, EMS is characterised by a triad of factors:
- Obesity: generalised or regional (abnormal fat deposits)
- Insulin resistance
Obesity may be generalised, which is easy to spot; or regional, with the persistent of stubborn fat in focal areas. This may include bulging of the supraorbital fat pads as shown in the image on the right; or commonly located in other areas such as the crest; shoulder; behind the withers; on the back, behind the saddle or around the tail head.
Testing for EMS involves a number of different blood tests depending on the clinical presentation of the pony and what we are trying to determine from the test itself. For example, different tests are required to ascertain whether the animal has metabolic obesity consistent with EMS or try to assess the risk of developing laminitis with grazing access. To discuss EMS, testing and management in more detail, please ring one our vets who will help you.