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Ep. 084: How to Help Your Horse with Cushing’s Disease

Co-hosts Dr. Tania Cubitt and Katy Starr discuss Cushing’s disease in horses, including symptoms and how to help manage it with nutrition.

Episode Notes

*** Beyond the Barn is going on a break! See the note below our episode description for more details. ***


On this episode, co-hosts Dr. Tania Cubitt and Katy Starr discuss equine Cushing’s disease in horses, also known as pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (PPID), including:

  • What type of horses are most likely to get Cushing’s disease
  • The difference between equine Cushing’s disease and equine metabolic syndrome (EMS)
  • How to properly feed a horse with Cushing’s disease and what to avoid

Tune in as Dr. Cubitt explains how to properly feed and care for a horse with Cushing’s disease. She shares common symptoms of Cushing’s disease in horses and how it’s diagnosed, along with a symptom that often gets missed with our competitive show horses.


*** We’ve got an exclusive update for our loyal podcast listeners! Standlee is working behind the scenes on a new project to help better support you and the animals you feed. To put a greater focus on this project, we’re hitting pause on the Beyond the Barn podcast for a bit and will see you back here soon!


Be sure to go back and catch up on any past episodes during this break and let us know of any future topics you’d like us to cover. Email***


*Views and opinions expressed by guests are their own and do not necessarily reflect the view of Standlee Premium Products, LLC.*


Reference – 

~7:14 – Differences between Cushing’s Disease and Equine Metabolic Syndrome -


Katy Starr (00:01):

Hi, I'm Katy.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (00:02):

And I'm Dr. Cubitt. We're going Beyond the Barn. Come join us on this journey as we bust equine and livestock nutrition myths and interview some of the most intriguing experts in the country.


Katy Starr (00:15):

We'll go behind the scenes of how premium western quality forage is grown and brought to your favorite farm and ranch retail store. We're so glad you're here.


Katy Starr (00:27):

We've got an exclusive update for you, our loyal podcast listeners. Standlee is working behind the scenes on a new project to help better support you and the animals you feed. To put a greater focus on this project, we're hitting pause on the Beyond the Barn podcast for a bit, and we'll see you back here soon. In the meantime, feel free to catch up on any of the 84 episodes we've published so far. Packed with empowering education and inspiring stories, including some popular nutrition topics on alfalfa misconceptions, strategies to keep your horse from eating too much or too fast, the most common feeding mistakes horse owners make, and so many more helpful topics. During this break, be sure to stay connected with us by following us on social media or subscribing to our email list. Continue to share topics you'd like to learn more about, or guests that you'd like to have join us on the Beyond the Barn podcast when we return by emailing us anytime at Can't wait to see you back here soon. Welcome back to another episode of Beyond the Barn, Dr. Cubitt, it's great to have you with us today.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (01:34):

I'm excited to be back.


Katy Starr (01:36):

We're going to be talking about, kind of, a specific topic that affects a certain, I guess, percentage of horses, Cushing's disease, today. And there's a lot of things that we're going to be discussing. One thing that we talked about briefly, Dr. Cubitt, is just making sure listeners understand that this is very much a medical disease that requires the communication and collaboration with your equine veterinarian. So, just know, today when we, kind of, talk about some of these topics, we're not going to talk specifically on treatments or specific drugs or any of that kind of stuff that's going to be, kind of, outside of what we do from a nutritional standpoint. And so, we want to make sure that you guys are understanding that this is going to be more involving supportive management for the disease and what we can do from a nutrition aspect to support our horses that are suffering from Cushing's disease.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (02:32):

A hundred percent.


Katy Starr (02:33):

And also, as always, any of the topics that we cover on the Beyond the Barn podcast are more generalized and not specific to any individual horse or any specific situation. Be sure to always work with your veterinarian and nutritionist before making drastic changes to your horses' feed program. And then, of course, on the nutritional side, you can always reach out to talk directly with Dr. Cubitt or Dr. Duren on any specifics that you would like to know about your situation. To get us started, Dr. Cubitt, as we talk about Cushing's disease in horses, what exactly is Cushing's disease, or also referenced as PPID, and how does it affect horses?


Dr. Tania Cubitt (03:11):

Well, let's go to the, kind of, correct terminology. The correct scientific terminology is pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (PPID), because this is affecting the pituitary gland in the back of the brain. And I am not quite sure, I'm sure if I Googled it I'd be able to find an answer as to why it was called Cushing's disease. But the lay term for this is Cushing's disease. But you will find that more and more people are actually using the correct acronym of PPID. And as that name, the correct scientific name, suggests it is describing the pituitary gland, which is on the back of the brain and there's a dysfunction, right? A tumor grows on that pituitary gland. Now, that pituitary gland is responsible for signaling environmental changes. So, change in day length, signaling seasonal changes, is one of the big ones. And that gland then will send out triggers that will release different hormones into the body that would then signal, you know, shed a hair coat, mares to start reproducing.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (04:18):

So, if you've ever seen a horse that has PPID, one of the telltale signs is that long shaggy haircut because they're not getting those correct signals that say, "Oh, we're coming, you know, we're getting longer day length now, we can go into that seasonal shed your hair coat because the warmer weather is coming. So, they will hold onto that. And some horses, it even looks like a sheep. It'll get really, really curly. Early, early symptoms are, they'll, you'll see that shaggy hair, kind of, along the neck where the rein would sit. There are also a bunch of other symptoms, that's just one of the most outward symptoms. They drink a lot, they pee a lot, and there are scientific names for that, but that's really what happens. The immune system goes down or tendon laxity. So, some unexplained, kind of, tendon injuries in those front, mainly in the front legs. These are all symptoms, I think even some sores in the mouth. These are all symptoms of PPID.


Katy Starr (05:20):

Excellent, and how common would you say Cushing's disease is in the horse population?


Dr. Tania Cubitt (05:26):

You know, I saw this question when you sent them to me and I was like, gosh, you know, from my perspective as an equine nutritionist, I was just saying this to someone I was training the other day that, you know, I only get questions about problem cases.


Katy Starr (05:42):

Mm-Hmm. .


Dr. Tania Cubitt (05:42):

So, if you ask me, oh, it's a huge problem. I get asked about this all the time.


Katy Starr (05:46):



Dr. Tania Cubitt (05:47):

But if you actually look at the data, then about 20% of aged horses, not all horses, aged horses suffer from PPID.


Katy Starr (05:56):

Okay, and so that leads me to my next question about if this is more common in certain populations of horses, whether it be breed or you say aged. What kind of horses does this tend to affect more than others?


Dr. Tania Cubitt (06:10):

I wouldn't say breed. I would say the one primary, kind of, criteria, I guess if there is one, is age. So, primarily horses over the age of 15. It's rare, but not impossible, for horses under 10. But primarily, over the age of 15. And I think because our horses are living longer because we've got better dental care, we've got better veterinary care, we're just in general looking after animals, and they're living longer. We are seeing more in our older horses, but yeah, over 15 is the primary age that this can occur.


Katy Starr (06:45):

Okay, and then, what would you say are maybe some of the similarities and differences between horses with Equine Metabolic Syndrome and Cushing's disease? Because I know we talk about Equine Metabolic Syndrome can sometimes be almost an umbrella for a lot of things and Cushing's horses can be impacted by some of those other diseases, and this is confusing for horse owners. How can you describe some of those things for us?


Dr. Tania Cubitt (07:09):

There's a really neat graphic that I've seen in several presentations, and we can share it in the show notes. Its Equine Metabolic Syndrome is one square, and then PPID is another square, and they can happen independently of each other, but then you can also have them overlapping. So, a horse with Metabolic Syndrome, which is typically overweight, cresty neck, insulin dysregulation symptoms, Cushing's disease, typically we've obviously got that tumor where it's interfering with hormonal, muscle wasting, immune issues that can happen independent. Just because you've got Cushing's doesn't mean you have Metabolic Syndrome, and just because you've got Metabolic Syndrome does not mean you have Cushing's or will develop Cushing's. But the two also can happen together, coincidentally together. I don't know that anybody's looked at the science as to whether horses with Metabolic Syndrome are more likely to develop Cushing's. I don't think anybody really understands why Cushing's occurs.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (08:14):

It certainly occurs in other animals, it's not just in horses.


Katy Starr (08:17):



Dr. Tania Cubitt (08:18):

And what you will notice in other animals is muscle wasting and weight loss, are common signs. But in this scenario, where you have Metabolic Syndrome and Cushing's occurring at the same time, we don't necessarily get that weight loss, we have muscle wasting. So, you can oftentimes see poor top line, but you know, if you've got Metabolic Syndrome, then one of the issues is you've got these abnormal fat pads. So, it makes it a little bit confusing for people and challenging, you know, to differentiate between the two. And a lot of times people just assume that they go together, but they're independent and coincidentally can occur together at the same time. So, that's a terrible answer, but it is a gray, kind of, area and nobody really understands that fully.


Katy Starr (09:02):

But I think that helps, just hearing you describe it, knowing that, because some people do think it's the same.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (09:08):

Hmm, not the same at all.


Katy Starr (09:09):

It's helpful to know that they can happen independently of each other. But then, I think that also just goes to show how important it is for horse owners when they see any, kind of, signs that may lead to, there is an issue happening, you got to work with your equine veterinarian, you got to work with your equine nutritionist to see...


Dr. Tania Cubitt (09:27):

Mm-hmm .


Katy Starr (09:27):

You know, what exactly is going on. And then, what's the best path forward to make sure that we can, you know, serve our animal properly to keep them as healthy as possible. Especially when they get something like this that can be a little bit...


Dr. Tania Cubitt (09:40):



Katy Starr (09:40):

Hard for them to manage. So.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (09:42):

And I think one of the other reasons why people get confused is the feeding and management are very similar.


Katy Starr (09:49):



Dr. Tania Cubitt (09:49):

And so, they think, "Oh, well if a low sugar starch diet is ideal for a metabolic horse and it's also ideal for a horse with Cushing's, then it must be the same thing. But it just so happens that those two diets are ideal for both classes of horses.


Katy Starr (10:04):



Dr. Tania Cubitt (10:04):

It doesn't necessarily mean that the origination of the disorder is the same.


Katy Starr (10:09):

Yeah. And so, you, kind of, mentioned that it's not totally known why Cushing's occurs. So, this is one of those things as your horse ages, it's not something that's necessarily preventable and...


Dr. Tania Cubitt (10:23):



Katy Starr (10:23):

I mean, not triggered by anything specific. It could just be that tumor that occurs. It's not something that necessarily a horse owner is doing wrong.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (10:32):

Similar to, obviously, you know, if you smoke you've got a much, much higher likelihood of getting lung cancer. But you can be the picture of health and still randomly even with no genetic predisposition developed breast cancer. Why?


Katy Starr (10:45):



Dr. Tania Cubitt (10:46):

We don't know, and Cushing's is the same. To my knowledge, again, I'm not a veterinarian and this isn't an area of a hundred percent expertise for me. To my knowledge, there is no known cause and certainly not something that horse owners are doing to their horses, other than being great horse owners and allowing them to live longer, that is triggering them getting Cushing's. It's not, you know, if you let your horse be overweight, you are definitely increasing their risk for developing Metabolic Syndrome and insulin resistance and laminitis. And if your horse then happened to get Cushing's as well, you didn't cause it by them being overweight, you caused a bunch of other things. It's certainly, to my knowledge, not preventable.


Katy Starr (11:31):

Okay. And so, you talked a lot about some of the signs and symptoms, kind of, as we got started in the episode, that very curly, curly hair coat is...


Dr. Tania Cubitt (11:40):

Mm-Hmm, .


Katy Starr (11:41):

A very early sign and an easily identifiable for the most part. How does that disease, kind of, transition? Like if nothing was to, no steps were to be taken to help that horse until later on, how could that transition to, what would we see at a more, I guess, devastating point of what a horse would look like if they started to have some signs that were ignored and then what would we be looking at?


Dr. Tania Cubitt (12:07):

Yeah. So, the early, early signs that a lot of people miss is that tendon laxity. Like I said, maybe you've got an older performance horse and you're, "Oh, he's just seems to have some unexplained lameness, some tendon issues," or he's you know, the immune system's down, so, in a boarding stable in the wintertime, he seems to develop a few more coughs than the other horses. This one is missed a lot. Those stray hairs on the neck, that beginning signs of the, kind of, long hair coat because we clip a lot of performance horses. Right?


Katy Starr (12:39):

Oh, right.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (12:40):

And so, that one is missed because we're clipping horses and not seeing that. But there's some of the very early signs that are missed, increased thirst and urination. Now, a lot of times we don't, if we have automatic waterers, we might be missing the increased thirst. But you can certainly see the increased urination, because most of these horses are in stalls. But if we don't do anything early on and this develops, then you are definitely going to see more of that hair coat, you know, the chronic long hair coat. Dental disease, we see a lot of. I wouldn't say wave mouth, but poor teeth health. Chronic infections, because that decreased immune function than progresses and you can have chronic sinus infections, skin infections, just overall seem to not be doing well and we can't explain it.


Katy Starr (13:33):

Yeah. They catch a lot of stuff that maybe other horses wouldn't.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (13:37):

Yeah. Mm-Hmm. . Exactly.


Katy Starr (13:37):

So, their immune system just, kind of, suppressed. Yeah.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (13:39):

Yeah. Yeah.


Katy Starr (13:40):



Dr. Tania Cubitt (13:40):

And then, obviously also the, you know, poor top line and sometimes they'll lose weight.


Katy Starr (13:46):

Yeah. Okay. And you know, we talked about you obviously not being an equine veterinarian or anything, but typically how would Cushing's disease be diagnosed in horses?


Dr. Tania Cubitt (13:57):

So, that pituitary gland, one of the main hormones that is interfered with or causes an irregular hormone secretion, but one of the hormones that is affected the most is, I always say ACTH and I never say the whole thing, but adrenocorticotropic hormone, that is what ACTH stands for. And so, that increases, and that's why your veterinarian will come and do a blood test and test for their ACTH levels, and if they're elevated along with other symptoms, then they will tell you that your horse has Cushing's. Now, one thing I did read that ACTH can be normal, even when you're starting to have some of those other symptoms like the, you know, tendon laxity or the decrease in immune function and start to get a bit of a snotty nose or some of those wispy hairs. So, we have to look at all, if your horse is starting to get some other weird signs and we do a blood test and they don't have high ACTH, it doesn't mean that they don't have Cushing's, they might just be early.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (15:02):

So, again, it really emphasizes why you have to work with your veterinarian. Why, you know, we talk all the time on our podcast when we're talking about disorders in horses, the only time you can fully evaluate whether your horse has a disorder is if you know what is normal.


Katy Starr (15:18):



Dr. Tania Cubitt (15:18):

So, whether it be, you know, how much they drink, this would be a great one because this causes increased thirst. Okay. If your horse doesn't drink a lot and then all of a sudden starts drinking more, he might now just be drinking the normal amount compared to the other horses in the barn. But for him it's a lot. Right?


Katy Starr (15:37):



Dr. Tania Cubitt (15:37):

But you wouldn't know that if you didn't know what his normal was. Body temperature, you know, there's so many things that you need to know. Hair coat growth, what is normal for your horse. So, that can be very beneficial and work with your veterinarian.


Katy Starr (15:51):

Yes. Excellent. And so, as we, kind of, go into almost the nutrition management for some of these horses, what would you say are the best types of hay to feed a horse that has Cushing's disease?


Dr. Tania Cubitt (16:04):

Well, let's step back and say overall diet. We know that many horses with PPID also have abnormal glucose. And so, sugar metabolism, glucose and insulin metabolism, and fat metabolism. So, we know that a total diet that's lower in sugars and starches can be ideal for these horses. But you know, Katy, what's the very next question that I ask? Is the horse fat or thin?


Katy Starr (16:29):



Dr. Tania Cubitt (16:30):

So, if this horse is fat and hasn't got any muscle wasting yet, then we're going to go with something like teff, right? It's lower in sugars than starches, but it's also lower in calories. So, we're not making this horse any fatter. If the horse is thin, a lot of muscle wasting, then I'm going to lean on something like alfalfa because alfalfa's got more calories that is going to help with that weight gain, but also excellent quality protein that's going to help with that muscle wasting.


Katy Starr (16:59):

Right. Well, and we talked about this, how it's important when you're seeking out help for something like this, definitely involve your equine veterinarian. You can't always rely on other people that have a horse that has Cushing's because every horse is different.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (17:15):

Mm-Hmm. . Yep.


Katy Starr (17:15):

And they experience different things, because you can have a fat Cushing's horse and you can have a thin Cushing's horse. Right?


Dr. Tania Cubitt (17:22):

Absolutely. Yep.


Katy Starr (17:23):

And then, as we, kind of, move, I mean you're talking about, kind of, those lower sugar, lower starch, but as we, kind of, go into types of feeds, fiber sources, supplements, are there any that we should definitely avoid feeding to a horse that has Cushing's disease?


Dr. Tania Cubitt (17:37):

I think just like Metabolic Syndrome, and again, this is where some of the confusion, we don't need to keep this super, super low, like oh my horse that has laminitis, if we don't have the other symptoms of metabolic issues. But I think a total diet of 12% or less sugars and starches. So, we're looking at, if you've got an overweight horse, maybe we're looking at a ration balancer with our hay or a feed that you've, you know, pretty concentrated. Maybe you're low carb options that you're feeding about three pounds a day. But again, if you've got a thinner horse that you're trying to put weight on, now we're looking at still the lower sugar and starch feeds, but with more calories, more fat and more super fibers.


Katy Starr (18:16):

Right. And is there any, and I'm asking this question because there are horse owners that have asked about this specifically, but is there any scientific research that supports the use of chasteberry or chromium for a horse that has Cushing's disease?


Dr. Tania Cubitt (18:32):

I do not believe that there is any real scientific evidence for chasteberry with any metabolic disorder, glucose and insulin regulation in horses, maybe it's different in people. As far as chromium, there is one approved, it's FDA approved source of chromium that is FDA approved for the use in horses, and that'sKemTRACE® Chromium. It is chromium propionate, and it comes from a company called Kemin, and that has approval for use in glucose and insulin regulation. Now, when you regulate glucose and insulin and make those function more correctly, then that has a cascade of events that it can affect. You know, whether it be improving performance, reproductive health, heat stress, insulin dysregulation. It can be a supportive supplement for any of those. But again, it's not a drug, it is a supplement. So, it's not going to treat or cure the disorder. It is, as we said in the very beginning, we're talking about supportive maintenance, right? You've worked with your veterinarian, you've got a medical protocol that you may be following. But then along with that, we know that a low sugar and starch diet, if your horse has some insulin dysregulation, we know that chromium, KemTRACE® Chromium, or chromium propionate can be supportive in helping that. So, yeah, that's, I know that Chromium has FDA approval, sobeaucoupamount of science behind that. As far as all the herbs, I haven't seen any that I would hang my hat on.


Katy Starr (20:02):

Okay. And that's good to know because you know, a lot of times people are, kind of, seeking out different things and it's good to know what, kind of, evidence-based information is available on certain things. So, and I mean, we've talked, you know, a little bit about nutrition, but do you have any other nutrition or care management tips for a horse that has been diagnosed with Cushing's disease that we could do from a nutrition management standpoint?


Dr. Tania Cubitt (20:26):

I think it's going to really depend on the outward symptoms that your horse is showing. Okay. So, let's say your horse may be a little bit more advanced and they're struggling with temperature, thermo-regulation. Then obviously, some of the other strategies would be making sure you keep them cool, keep a fan on them, they're out in a field, making sure they've got shade, that kind of thing. So, I think it really depends, as we said, every horse is going to show symptoms differently depending on the severity or extent of the disorder. So, then how you treat those symptoms is really specific to each horse.


Katy Starr (21:00):

And from your perspective as a PhD, equine nutritionist, are there any common mistakes that horse owners might make?


Dr. Tania Cubitt (21:10):

I think maybe sticking our head in the sand a little early, we've got, kind of, a middle-aged performance horse that we really don't want to know that they have Cushing's. So, we, for a year or two, kind of, try and play off, oh, well, you know.


Katy Starr (21:28):

It's probably something else.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (21:30):

It's probably something else, or he's just a little lame, he'll be fine. But like with like anything, I mean, the sooner you catch it, the sooner you can work with your veterinarian, develop a plan, and manage it. This is not a curable disorder. Right. You can't, I don't know that anybody's done a, kind of, lobotomy and removed the tumor from the pituitary gland in a horse. Maybe they've done it in rats or dogs, but they've certainly never done it in a horse. So, it's just management. It's, you know, managing quality of life, and the sooner that you can start doing that, the better.


Katy Starr (22:03):

Right. In your opinion, and maybe it doesn't matter, but is it more common for a horse with Cushing's disease to be underweight or overweight?


Dr. Tania Cubitt (22:13):

I think in general it's more common for our aged horses to be overweight, just on a whole. So, I don't know. I really don't know the answer to that one, as to whether overweight or underweight. I would say I probably get more cases where the horse is overweight.


Katy Starr (22:28):



Dr. Tania Cubitt (22:28):

But, you know, you get the really, really old horses and everything's just starting to slow down and be less and less effective. So, those horses are losing weight. But at that point too, you have to have a, kind of, realistic conversation with yourself about the horse. And for me, my stance is quality of life.


Katy Starr (22:48):



Dr. Tania Cubitt (22:48):

Right. Okay. If we can maintain quality of life, then we keep the animal going, then we're doing a great job. And quality of life, the first thing it comes down to is will they eat? If they stop eating or don't like what you're providing for them, they're going to lose weight and that's going to decrease their quality of life, and other things will start to happen from there. You might have the perfect diet that's low in sugars and starches and beautifully balanced and the horse hates it. Well, we've got another problem. So.


Katy Starr (23:15):



Dr. Tania Cubitt (23:16):

I think it, you know, we've got to maintain their quality of life.


Katy Starr (23:19):

Absolutely. And you had mentioned that one of the symptoms of a horse that is getting or has Cushing's disease is muscle loss.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (23:28):



Katy Starr (23:29):

So, for those horses, and we've talked about this a little bit before. At some point, once your aged horses become older, there's just, that's just a natural...


Dr. Tania Cubitt (23:40):

It's a natural function of aging. Mm-Hmm. .


Katy Starr (23:41):

Thing that happens with aging. And so, but you know how so often people want to be able to fix what they can fix. Is there any additional way that we could support our horse that might have Cushing's disease, that has that muscle loss? Is there anything that we can, kind of, do to support them from a diet standpoint?


Dr. Tania Cubitt (23:59):

And I think that comes back to, okay, if we've got a 16, 17-year-old horse that's been diagnosed with Cushing's and it's got some muscle loss, but we're still exercising them, yeah. We can feed them a more high-quality, not necessarily more protein, but more high-quality protein diet.


Katy Starr (24:16):

Mm-Hmm. .


Dr. Tania Cubitt (24:17):

Get some more of those amino acids in there, look at some different exercise techniques to help build that up. But just like in the previous question, you know, you get to a point where it's maintenance and maybe they've lost a certain amount of topline and we're never going to get that back. So, I think that if we go back to the myth or misconception, this isn't necessarily Cushing's related, but old horse related. When you get that loss of topline, we have to be realistic about what we can actually put back and what we're just at the point of, well, we just need to maintain this and make sure we don't lose anymore. So.


Katy Starr (24:52):



Dr. Tania Cubitt (24:52):

Again, it's case by case.


Katy Starr (24:54):

Yeah. Okay. And you touched on it briefly about horses with Cushing's disease having some dental issues. What, kind of, happens with the horse at that point?


Dr. Tania Cubitt (25:06):

Well, again, it all comes back to they can't eat or they can't break, you know, they can't consume the food, they're dropping it. So, that will significantly speed up the rate of weight loss. If they've got sores in their mouth or some kind of teeth disease. So, their teeth aren't grinding properly, then that will speed up weight loss, because they just won't be able to consume the food. And maybe we think, oh, we're providing them all this food and we don't notice that half of it's on the ground.


Katy Starr (25:33):

Okay. One of the questions that is frequently asked by horse owners is, is it okay to ride horses that have Cushing's disease?


Dr. Tania Cubitt (25:43):

Mmm, yeah. Great one. And again, it depends on the horse. You know, if you've got a 40-year-old pony that's swaybacked and got terrible muscle wasting and is thin and we're just trying to maintain him, then no, you're probably not going to ride that horse. But if we've got a younger horse, you know, doesn't necessarily even need to be younger horse, but a horse that hasn't lost significant weight, is still active, doesn't have stiff joints, then he might still be a performance horse, or it might be a lesson horse. So, it really depends on the severity of the symptoms.


Katy Starr (26:18):

Right. And then, you said this is an incurable disease, right?


Dr. Tania Cubitt (26:22):

Mm-Hmm, .


Katy Starr (26:22):

So, what are, kind of, the long-term effects of Cushing's disease on the horse's overall health and quality of life? How long can a horse live with Cushing's disease?


Dr. Tania Cubitt (26:34):

No idea. Again, it depends. It depends how long can a horse live? I mean, some horses live till 45 and some horses live till 15. So, you know, I think what they eventually expire from may or may not be due to them having Cushing's, but certainly Cushing's decreases their immune system. So maybe they're at risk, more at risk for developing other things that might end their life sooner. But, you know, there's no reason why a horse with Cushing's disease doesn't live just as long as any other horse. It just means you've got to manage those symptoms.


Katy Starr (27:08):



Dr. Tania Cubitt (27:09):

A little bit more intensely.


Katy Starr (27:11):

So, would you think then if someone caught it early and was just very on top of making sure that, management-wise, they were just doing all the right things, feeding the right nutrition, working with their veterinarian to handle their treatments, and everything like that, would give that horse a little bit more longevity than a horse that's...


Dr. Tania Cubitt (27:32):

Yeah. Give them the best chance of, you know, good quality long life. Yep.


Katy Starr (27:37):

Yeah. Yep. Excellent. So, Dr. Cubitt, as we, kind of, wrap this episode up, what would be some of your key takeaways that you would like to leave listeners with about Cushing's disease in horses?


Dr. Tania Cubitt (27:49):

Well, in horses, period, know the norms for your horse so that when they start to go awry, you can pick up on it really early. And, you know, just relying on your veterinarian coming and he doesn't know your horse, he doesn't know the horse's normal hair coat or drinking pattern. But if he can couple blood tests or other, kind of, tests that he can do with your evaluation of, this is not normal for my horse. My horse doesn't do this, and now he is, then you can catch this disorder early and you can manage it and, you know, slow the progression of it so that you can have a really long life with your horse. And that's any disorder though.


Katy Starr (28:31):

Yeah. Yep. And I think for us to just, kind of, hit home on the importance of making sure that you, you know, connect with your veterinarian as soon as you, kind of, have concerns about something going on.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (28:42):



Katy Starr (28:43):

And like you always talk about, making sure that you're just working with your team. Because it takes a team to be able to help manage our horses in the way that we live in our modern society as to what they used to experience. So, Dr. Cubitt, thanks so much for being here to talk with us today about Cushing's or PPID. I know that there are a number of people, horse owners, that do have horses with this disease. And so, hopefully they can feel a little bit more confident in knowing how to nutritionally manage their horses and give them the best life that they can.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (29:17):

Excellent. Thanks for having me.


Katy Starr (29:21):

Thanks for listening to the Beyond the Barn podcast by Standlee Forage. We'd love for you to share our podcast with your favorite people and subscribe on Apple, Spotify, or your favorite listening platform. Until next time, keep your cinch tight, and don't forget to turn off the water.


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