Nutritional Tips for Horses with Cushing’s Disease


Horses with Cushing’s disease, also known as pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (PPID), require special care and attention to maintain their health and well-being. Proper nutrition plays a crucial role in managing the symptoms and supporting the overall health of horses with this condition. In this article, we will discuss essential nutritional tips that can help horse owners provide the best care for their equine companions with Cushing’s disease.

1. Provide High-Quality Forage

Horses with Cushing’s disease should have access to high-quality forage, such as grass hay or alfalfa. Good-quality forage ensures a balanced diet and provides essential nutrients. It is important to monitor the sugar and starch content of the forage, as horses with Cushing’s disease may be more susceptible to metabolic issues.

2. Limit Non-Structural Carbohydrates

Non-structural carbohydrates (NSCs), including sugars and starches, can have adverse effects on horses with Cushing’s disease. These compounds can cause insulin resistance and other metabolic imbalances. To manage NSC intake, choose forage with low sugar and starch content and consider soaking hay before feeding to reduce carbohydrate levels.

3. Supplement with Essential Nutrients

Due to the potential for compromised nutrient absorption in horses with Cushing’s disease, supplementation may be necessary to ensure they receive adequate nutrition. Consult with a veterinarian or equine nutritionist to determine the appropriate supplements for your horse. Essential nutrients to consider include vitamins, minerals, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants.

4. Maintain a Balanced Diet

A balanced diet is crucial for horses with Cushing’s disease to support their overall health and manage symptoms effectively. Along with high-quality forage, include a well-formulated concentrate feed that meets the specific nutritional needs of your horse. Ensure the feed is low in sugar and starch and provides a balanced ratio of protein, fat, and carbohydrates.

5. Manage Weight and Body Condition

Horses with Cushing’s disease are prone to weight gain and obesity. Maintaining a healthy body condition is essential to manage the condition effectively and reduce the risk of other complications. Monitor your horse’s weight regularly and adjust their diet and exercise regimen accordingly to prevent excessive weight gain.

6. Controlled Grazing and Turnout

Horses with Cushing’s disease may have increased sensitivity to the sugars in grass. To manage their sugar intake, consider using a grazing muzzle to limit the amount of grass they consume while turned out. Alternatively, provide restricted and controlled grazing to reduce sugar intake and prevent metabolic issues.

7. Adequate Hydration

Proper hydration is essential for the overall well-being of horses, including those with Cushing’s disease. Ensure that clean and fresh water is always available to your horse. Encourage water consumption by providing water sources in multiple locations and keeping them clean and free from debris.

8. Regular Exercise

Regular exercise is beneficial for horses with Cushing’s disease as it helps maintain muscle tone, supports weight management, and improves overall health. Develop an exercise routine suitable for your horse’s condition and consult with a veterinarian to determine the appropriate level of exercise.

9. Medication Management

In addition to proper nutrition, horses with Cushing’s disease may require medication to manage their symptoms. Follow the prescribed medication regimen and consult with your veterinarian regularly to monitor your horse’s response to treatment. Ensure that medication and feed are administered at appropriate times to avoid any interactions or compromises in their effectiveness.

10. Regular Veterinary Check-ups

Regular veterinary check-ups are crucial for monitoring the health and progress of horses with Cushing’s disease. Work closely with your veterinarian to create a comprehensive care plan for your horse. These check-ups can help identify any changes or complications early on, allowing for prompt intervention and management.


Proper nutrition plays a vital role in managing the symptoms and promoting the overall well-being of horses with Cushing’s disease. By providing high-quality forage, limiting non-structural carbohydrates, supplementing with essential nutrients, maintaining a balanced diet, managing weight, controlling grazing, ensuring adequate hydration, promoting regular exercise, monitoring medication management, and scheduling regular veterinary check-ups, horse owners can optimize the care for their equine companions with this condition.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

  1. Q: Can horses with Cushing’s disease eat pasture? A: Horses with Cushing’s disease should have controlled access to pasture or be provided with restricted grazing to manage sugar intake.
  2. Q: Are there any specific vitamins or minerals that are beneficial for horses with Cushing’s disease? A: Consult with a veterinarian or equine nutritionist to determine appropriate supplements, but commonly recommended nutrients include vitamin E, magnesium, and omega-3 fatty acids.
  3. Q: How can I help my horse with Cushing’s disease maintain a healthy weight? A: Monitor your horse’s weight regularly, adjust their diet and exercise routine as needed, and consult with a veterinarian for guidance on weight management.
  4. Q: Can exercise help alleviate the symptoms of Cushing’s disease in horses? A: Regular exercise can help manage weight, maintain muscle tone, and improve overall health in horses with Cushing’s disease.
  5. Q: Is it necessary to soak hay before feeding it to a horse with Cushing’s disease? A: Soaking hay can help reduce the sugar and starch content, making it a suitable option for horses with Cushing’s disease. However, consult with a veterinarian for specific recommendations based on your horse’s needs.

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