01622 813700 SignVideo

Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS) and PPID (Cushing's Disease)

EMS is insulin dysregulation in horses, ponies and donkeys, where animals cannot regulate the levels of insulin in their blood.  Affected animals are typically obese with fat deposits over their bodies.  Fat deposits are often on the neck causing a cresty neck, over the ribs, on the sheath or mammary glands or on the tail head / rump. Horses with EMS often develop laminitis, although this is can be subclinical (no obvious clinical signs) in the early stages.  They may also have infertility and increase appetite.  EMS can develop in horses and ponies of any age or gender although there does seem to be a genetic predisposition in breeds used to living in thrifty environments, such as mountain and moorlands, who are more commonly affected when kept on lusher pasture.

When horses with EMS have a high carbohydrate feed they produce an exaggerated blood insulin and blood sugar response, which then takes longer for blood sugar levels to return to normal. 

Diagnosis of EMS is based on clinical signs and insulin levels in the blood.  High levels of insulin are often detected with a base level blood test but sometimes dynamic testing is required (a sugar stress test).

Treatment of EMS is based primarily on dietary restriction and increased exercise levels with guidance from your vet, however, if these changes alone do not work, medical treatment with a variety of options are becoming available – if you have any questions, please talk to one of the vets at BELL EQUINE on 01622 813700

Cushing’s disease is a disease that usually affects older horses and ponies . It most commonly affects animals are over the age of 14years old, although younger animals can be affected.

It is a disease when part of the brain called the pituitary gland produces too much of a hormone called Cortisol.  Too much Cortisol is produced due to damage to the inhibitory system that prevents its production.

Common clinical symptoms of PPIP or Cushings include:

               *Long curly coat and delayed shedding of winter coat


               *Fat pads above the eyes

               * Increased sweating

               * Increased thirst and urination

               * Susceptibility to infections


               *Weight loss

Cushing’s is usually diagnosed based on a combination of clinical signs and a blood test measuring the hormone ACTH.  There are a small percentage of horses with Cushing’s who have a negative ACTH test and require a TRH stimulation test for diagnosis. 

Cushing’s is a progressive disease, with clinical signs tending to get worse with age and unfortunately, it cannot be cured.  However, the clinical symptoms of Cushing’s disease can be treated with a daily tablet called Prascend (Pergolide) and treatment, once started, is usually lifelong.

This treatment can benefit many cases, although at first, some side effects such as anorexia have occasionally been reported, There are however, protocols in place if these do occur, so please speak to one of the vets at BELL EQUINE on 01622 813700, if you are concerned.  Medical treatment of Cushing’s disease is not always necessary, although management changes can also help, and we can advise you on what is best in each individual case.