By Mark Andrews

Horse owners and caregivers can help research into the underlying causes of Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction (PPID) also known as Equine Cushing’s Disease, a condition common in older horses and ponies. Typical signs include a long curly hair coat and weight loss. The condition is associated with a range of problems, the most serious of which is laminitis. 

Researchers at the University of Melbourne are conducting a survey of horse owners as part of a broader, major international project to improve the understanding and knowledge of the fundamental causes of the condition, in order to improve early diagnosis, treatment, husbandry, and nutritional management.

The short online survey is designed to better understand how owners manage horses or ponies with PPID, and what the important factors are for them including the ability to feed separately and cost of medications.

Lead researcher at the Melbourne Veterinary School, Dr. Nicolas Galinelli, says it is important to gain a better understanding of current management practices when it comes to PPID. 

“We need to get a broader sense of what is working for horse owners so that we can improve health outcomes for these animals both in terms of the early recognition of PPID signs and in the way we determine the most appropriate treatment, management and nutrition.

“PPID affects approximately 20 percent of horses and is slightly more common in ponies. Sometimes it is treated with specific drugs that target the excessive production of hormones from the pituitary gland, whilst other owners may choose to only treat the clinical signs of the disease such as laminitis. Adapting the diet can also be helpful. We want to understand how owners make treatment decisions and which decisions are having the best outcomes.”

Veterinary pharmacology expert Professor Simon Bailey adds that the survey will ask owners about what factors are important for them in treating PPID, including the cost and side-effects of medications and the ability for horses to be fed separately. “We encourage owners to get in touch once our results have been finalised and published. We are keen to help share this information with the equine community and thank them for their support,” he says. 

The research, supported by the Australian Research Council, is being undertaken by the Melbourne Veterinary School and Queensland University of Technology with industry partners including WALTHAM Petcare Science Institute (UK), Boehringer Ingelheim (Germany), and The Liphook Equine Hospital (UK).

The results from this anonymous survey will provide valuable information and contribute to improved targeted education of the horse owning public.

Access the survey HERE.

Published with the kind permission of Mark Andrews, Equine Science Update.

Photo: Dreamstime/Nicole Ciscato