PPID (formally cushings)

What is PPID?…

What is all the current talk about PPID (Equine Cushing’s disease)?  Today, Equine Cushing’s Disease is often more accurately described as PPID (Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction) and is a common hormonal dysfunction in horses.  It can affect as many as 1 in 7 horses and ponies over the age of 15[1] but can occasionally be seen in younger horses too!
In horses affected by PPID, the pituitary gland produces an excess of hormones which can cause imbalances in a number of your horse’s normal bodily functions.  This can cause a whole range of problems that vary in severity according to how far the disease has progressed. 
What should you be watching out for?
The most characteristic symptoms for late stage PPID include changes to the haircoat, altered body shape - unusual areas of fat deposits / muscle wasting / rounded abdomen and laminitis.  Laminitis is a painful condition that affects the feet and hooves of horses and ponies.  
PPID symptoms are diverse and vary in severity according to the disease stage.  Here is a more inclusive list of some of the signs you might see:


  • Decreased athletic performance
  • Change in attitude/lethargy
  • Delayed haircoat shedding
  • Increased areas of hairiness
  • Change in body conformation
  • Regional fat deposits (e.g. neck)
  • Laminitis
  • Infertility



  • Lethargy
  • Generalized hairiness (hypertrichosis/hirsutism)
  • Loss of seasonal hair coat shedding
  • Recurrent infections (eg. sole abscesses, gum / dental disease, skin infections)
  • Neurologic deficits (e.g. blindness)
  • Abnormal sweating (increased or decreased)
  • Absent reproductive cycle / infertility
  • Skeletal muscle atrophy
  • Regional fat deposits
  • Increased drinking and urinating
  • Laminitis
  • Rounded abdomen

What should I do if I think my horse/pony has PPID?
You can help a lot by watching for early signs of PPID and contacting us on 09 238 2471 if you think your horse needs to be checked.  A simple blood test can help diagnose PPID.  For this test a single blood sample is taken to measure the level of the hormone ACTH which is abnormally high in horses that suffer from PPID[2].  This test is most sensitive at diagnosing early PPID if performed in the autumn.
How do we treat PPID?
PPID cannot be cured but fortunately can be effectively managed with use of medication and by things such as clipping to improve coat issues, weight management, corrective farrier to aid laminitic control, and high level dental care to control gum infections.  Our vets have considerable experience in diagnosis and treatment of PPID over several years both here and overseas (where diagnosis and medication have been commonplace for quite some time).  
When effective treatment and management is started early, horses with PPID can expect to enjoy many healthy, quality years to come. 
For more information go to:  www.talkaboutlaminitis.co.nz


[1] McGowan TW, Hodgson DR, McGowan CM. The prevalence of equine Cushing’s syndrome in aged horses.  In: Proceedings from the 25th American College of Veterinary inter Medicine Forum: June 6-9, 2007; Seattle, WA. Abstract 603

[2] Durham et al. Pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction: Diagnosis and treatment 2014 Equine vet. Educ. 26;42:16-223