For a little while I had an inkling that Hamish might have Cushings. In the winter of 2017 I noticed he got quite hairy and it took him a little while to loose his winter coat. In fact, last summer (2017) he held onto some of his coat for the whole duration and he had been a slightly lethargic when I worked him. These were the two things that had played on my mind; intermittently nagging away that something could be the matter.
Eventually at the end of January this year I decided that it wouldn’t do any harm to call the vet for a blood test. I think perhaps I put it off for a few months because I kind of didn’t really want to know… I know that sounds bad but I almost didn’t want to think there was anything wrong with Hamish and these small niggling things didn’t really affect us that much. But, when I really thought about it, I know the blood test could only help! When I eventually took the plunge and booked the blood test I felt a huge sense of relief; in fact, I was even looking forward to receiving the results and knowing what was going on.
As you’ll already know, Hamish tested positive for Cushings. His initial result was a count of 95 – which is quite high. I believe anything over 30 is above average. They suggested trying 1/2 a Prascend tablet a day with his dinner and doing another blood test in 6 weeks to check his levels. I believe this is pretty common practise, so hopefully this is a helpful insight for any of you going through the same thing.
After the 6 weeks was up, I booked in a blood test for Hamish and at this point I had already suspected that the medication had started to kick in. His coat was looking better (less ‘woolly’), he had more energy in the school and he just seemed to be more his normal self. The test came back with a score of 29 and I couldn’t have been more relieved. The vets actually advised this level is ‘borderline’ for Cushings, so I couldn’t have hoped for a better result.
He’s remained on 1/2 tablet a day and what a huge difference that tiny little half a tablet has made. This spring he managed to get rid of ALL his winter coat and he was left with a lovely soft, silky and short summer coat. His energy levels have also boosted and he’s just managed really well overall. I am so pleased that I went with my instinct and got Hamish tested – he’s feeling 100x better for it and it’s a very small price to pay for a happy, healthy horse.
If you’re wondering whether your horse might have Cushings, here are a few things you can look out for:
Laministis – This is probably the most serious of the signs, but laministis can be caused by Cushings Disease. If any of the other symptoms are also present, then this might be something to consider.
Retention of their coat / excessive hair growth – If your horse is growing a much fuller coat or struggling to loose their coat during the season change, this could be a sign of Cushings too. Look out for any changes in their normal coat. Some horses will naturally have a thicker coat, especially in their older years, so don’t be too worried. You’ll know if anything seems ‘out of the ordinary’.
Increased Drinking (and weeing!) – You might notice your horse is drinking more water and also ‘spending a penny’ more often too!
Lethargic – They may be slightly more lethargic and lacking in energy, this might be more noticeable when your exercising them, so keep an eye on their energy levels and any consistent lack of energy could be a result of Cushings.
Speak to your vets – If you have any concerns or you think your horse may have Cushings, speak to your vet. They will be able to provide the best advise and ensure you have all of the information you need.
I hope Hamish’s story is helpful and can guide you through the process, if you’re worried about your horse. I have to say, for Ham and I, Cushings hasn’t effected us too dramatically and certainly now he’s on his medication – you’d never even know! My advice would be to always check with your vet if your unsure. When speaking to your vet, make sure to ask them whether they offer free blood testing. Some vets offer free blood testing for Cushings in Spring & Autumn, so it’s definitely worth asking to save you a few pennies!!
If you have any questions or would like any advice from Hamish and I’s experience with Cushings so far, please feel free to drop me a message, I’m always happy to chat.