in Dogs, Horses and Ponies
Cushings Disease, Cushings Syndrome, Hyperadrenocorticism and other names refer to a chronic and life-threatening disease of dogs, ponies and horses. In this disease, there is over-production of cortisone by the adrenal gland, usually in response to over-stimulation by the pituitary gland, via adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH).
The affected animal usually grows a long straggly coat, which fails properly to moult in the spring, is thirsty, hungry and suffers liver problems and problems with glucose (sugar) metabolism. Because of the cortisone levels, the animal is more prone to infection. Patients commonly lose weight and condition and show abnormal fat distribution and swollen abdomen. There is commonly a sour and sweaty smell to the coat. In equines, we see a tendency to chronic laminitis and, in older equine patients, a tendency to dental abscesses and loss of teeth.
In dogs, a similar disease can be induced by excessive treatment with corticosteroid drugs (cortisone, steroid).
The causes are not yet fully understood but there is probably immune involvement (or even autoimmune involvement). At the AVMC, we are suspicious that the disease may frequently be the result of aspects of modern management and medical interventions, since the disease appears to be more prevalent, especially in ponies, in latter years.
Conventional treatment is usually a form of chemotherapy. We always seek an alternative to this approach, if possible. Treatment options used, often combined, have been veterinary homeopathy, veterinary acupuncture, herbal medicine and natural feeding. It is difficult to say but these appear (from client feedback) to offer similar results to the use of conventional drugs, in that the progress of the disease appears to slow and quality of life is held for longer than if no treatment is given.
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