What contributes to Cushings Sydrome in Horses?
Stressors such as high sugar or carbohydrate diets, training and showing, injury, vaccinations, daily dewormers and most show medications such as ACTH, Regu-Mate®, etc. can create negative side effects that may seem small at first, but may accumulate. Diet and nutrition have the single greatest impact on horse health, with an unhealthy diet resulting in undue amounts of inflammation. Feeds that are high in sugar and carbohydrates are a daily stressor for many horses. All grains, when digested, are processed and metabolized as sugar, which can lead to hives, ulcers, tying up, colic, and immune compromise. The 2nd biggest contributor to chronic, low-grade stress is unnecessary vaccinations. Most vaccines contain adjuvants to activate the immune system and this hyper stimulation is highly inflammatory.
Many equine vaccines are made from killed viruses and contain Thimerosal, a chemical compound made from Mercury used as a preservative. Mercury causes stress to the immune system because it has to work overtime in an effort to try to remove this heavy metal from the body. Daily dewormers produce chronic, low-grade inflammation. Even though they are fed in small doses, these chemicals, given on a daily basis, can substantially contribute to a horse’s stress load. For performance horses, owners or trainers often turn to “medications” such as ACTH, Dexamethasone and Regu-Mate® to produce calming effects or alleviate moodiness. These synthetic drugs alter the hormonal balance and can lead to further consequences for the endocrine system. ACTH, for example, produces calming effects by temporarily increasing cortisol production. Since the major cause of this syndrome is runaway cortisol, it is easy to imagine the negative effects related to the long-term use of these drugs.
As the severity of the stress builds, a horse’s susceptibility to endocrine dysfunction and Cushing’s syndrome increases dramatically. Though this condition is more common in older horses, it is no longer viewed as a condition limited to aging animals. If you feel that your horse may be developing Cushings Syndrom the first thing you should do is evaluate your feed program. Also, eliminating all possible stressors is key. Finally, we recommend feeding daily Endocrine support such as Harmony™. This is a powerful all-natural supplement designed to promote a healthy metabolism and Endocrine System. These active ingredients combine many key nutraceuticals which help maintain normal blood sugar and hormone levels.