Skin is a truly amazing organ. It keeps our bodies from drying out, protects us against infection, plus it’s waterproof! I love my skin. Heck, as a cat, I spend several hours a day grooming it just to keep it in pristine condition. But the trouble with skin is that sometimes this protective barrier that surrounds our entire bodies can break down. Let’s take a closer look at the 3 biggest enemies of equine skin: Rain, Sun, and Bugs.
Just about every horse owner has heard of Rain Rot. But, did you know that rain rot is actually caused by a type of bacteria, and not a fungus? And did you know that this same bacteria can cause skin problems elsewhere on the body, like the pasterns and cannon bones? Rain rot is so named because this bacterium happens to thrive in moist environments. This is why it is usually found on your horse’s back or flanks after heavy rainfall, or on the back of his pasterns when he has been standing in a muddy pasture. So, while skin is waterproof, it is not a fan of prolonged exposure to moisture.
You wouldn’t go outside all day in the middle of summer without any sunblock on, would you? Well, the same goes for your white horse, or even your chestnut horse with that little snip on his nose. If you are one of the lucky ones to own a mostly-white paint horse in Florida, you may want to invest in a full-body fly sheet with UV-blocking properties. But, if it’s just a strip or a blaze you need to cover up, daily application of sunblock or a fly mask may suffice. Don’t forget to protect your horse’s skin from sunburn just as you would your own!
Nobody likes being bitten or stung by flies, gnats, bees, ants, and the like. But many horses are actually allergic to the saliva of these pests. As you may have guessed, the skin and hair of these horses is a complete disaster during the buggy season. The owners of these horses may as well invest in fly spray at the rate they have to buy it! Wouldn’t it be great if there were a single product you could apply daily to repel bugs, soothe skin, take away the itch, and treat already-existing bug bites? Well, actually, there is!
To find out about this and other magical equine skin products, don’t miss our free seminar, Managing Skin: From Itch to Funk! this Thursday, June 8th, at 7pm. One of my favorite speakers from Kinetic Vet will be talking about how to manage these and a variety of other equine skin conditions. Oh, and most importantly, I will be there! Check out the Event Page on Facebook for more details!
So, bring a friend, and a treat for me, and I’ll see you Thursday! Be ready to take home some free stuff, but please make sure that I am not among the prizes that wind up in your barn. Sometimes I accidentally go home with people…
Is your older horse taking longer to shed out than usual this spring? Is it getting harder to keep weight on the old man? Has your retiree had more than one hoof abscess in the last year? If so, you may be dealing with PPID, better known as Cushing’s Disease. Read on to learn more about PPID from this wise old cat!
What is PPID?
PPID stands for Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction, which is the technical term for Cushing’s disease in horses. In the most basic sense, PPID is a brain tumor. The brain actually has a very intricate system of glands that produce hormones which stimulate additional glands to produce other hormones that control functions elsewhere in the body. When one of these glands (the Pituitary) in the horse’s brain goes AWOL, you have Cushing’s disease.
The tumor growing on the pituitary gland is called an adenoma. This tumor applies pressure to the gland as it grows, causing over-production of its hormones (namely, adrenocorticotropic hormone, or ACTH). The clinical signs of Cushing’s disease in horses are all a result of too much ACTH in circulation. Time for a nap break…all of these letters are giving this cat a headache!
What are the signs of PPID?
Cushing’s disease can lead to a bunch of problems. For one, overproduction of ACTH can confound the whole winter-coat-growing system, so your horse winds up with long, curly hair in the hottest summer months. Failure to shed out completely or in a timely manner is the most well-known sign of Cushing’s disease. However, now that we know early treatment seems to slow the progression of the disease, our efforts are aimed at diagnosing the disease earlier, using more subtle signs.
In the early stages of the disease, PPID can cause lethargy, muscle wasting, regional fat deposits, recurrent infections, increased water consumption, and increased urination. The most worrisome side effect of Cushing’s disease is chronic laminitis. There is no known cure for laminitis, and it can even be life-threatening in horses with PPID. And that’s bad, because horses have 8 fewer lives than us cats.
Pony with Equine Cushings Disease
How do I know if my horse has PPID?
Since the early signs of the disease can be subtle, our docs recommend annual testing for Cushing’s disease on any horse over 10 years of age. First the docs will draw blood, then it goes on a trip to Cornell University where they test the ACTH levels. Then, the doctors will compare your horse’s ACTH levels to the normal range for a horse during that time of year.
Considering your horse’s test results and clinical signs, your vet may recommend daily medication to treat PPID. Luckily, the folks at Boehringer Ingelheim have come up with a great medicine called Prascend that is easy to give, and works really well too! Just one tablet a day mixed in with grain is a sufficient dose for most horses. I’ve heard it tastes better than the cheese-flavored medicine the humans squirt in my mouth every day.
Conveniently, I have an event coming up here next week at Springhill Equine on Wednesday April 19th at 6:30pm, where you can learn all you ever wanted to know about PPID and other senior horse problems! Some of my favorite people from Boehringer Ingelheim will be there to answer any questions you may have, and best of all there will be food! Oh, and a chance to win a free ACTH test for your horse. You may think that is even better than food, but that’s where we will have to agree to disagree………
See you there!