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Horse owners urged to routinely test older horses for PPID

Horse owners throughout the UK are being urged to ask their vets to routinely test for PPID at the annual health check or vaccination visit for horses over the age of 15.
The recommendation follows analysis of data gathered via the Talk About Laminitis (TAL) disease awareness initiative, which has seen more than 47,000 horses tested for PPID (Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction, previously known as Cushing’s disease) since it was launched in 20121.  The data revealed that a horse aged 15-20 is three times more likely to have PPID compared to a horse under 10, and this risk increases with age.  For example, a horse of 20-25 is six times more likely to have PPID compared to a horse under 10, and a horse that is 25-30 is 10 times more likely to have PPID.
Despite the high prevalence of PPID in the older horse population, it is also recognised that the signs of this disease develop gradually and that owners may simply associate them with the normal ageing process.  One study demonstrated that in a single population of horses only 1.6% of owners reported signs of PPID2. However, when the same group of horses were examined by a veterinary surgeon, 21% were found to have signs of the disease.
One of the most consequential signs of PPID is laminitis, and two-thirds of laminitic horses tested through TAL were found to have PPID1. Other signs of PPID include lethargy, increased thirst/urination, recurring infections such as foot abscesses and sinusitis, muscle wastage, coat changes, abnormal sweating and visible fat pads around the eyes (peri-orbital fat).
“It is often difficult for owners to spot the signs of PPID as they frequently associate them with the ageing process. However, PPID is now the fifth most commonly diagnosed disease in horses in the UK3,” comments Dr Jo Ireland, veterinary surgeon at the University of Liverpool.  “We are therefore encouraging horse owners to ask their veterinary surgeon to routinely test horses over 15 years of age for PPID. Identifying PPID early means that appropriate management strategies can be put into place to help keep horses healthier for longer”.
The ‘Talk About Laminitis’ (TAL) disease awareness initiative runs from June until the end of October and aims to raise awareness of the underlying hormonal causes of laminitis – PPID and Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS).  The initiative, supported by Redwings, The British Horse Society (BHS) and World Horse Welfare, is now in its sixth consecutive year.  As part of the scheme, the laboratory fees for the blood test which detects PPID (the basal ACTH test) are free*.
Redwings’ head of veterinary and care, senior vet Nicky Jarvis, says: “Any initiative that decreases the incidence of laminitis developing in an older equine is invaluable. Laminitis is an extremely distressing condition for both the horse and the owner and the long-term consequences can be devastating. Knowing the underlying cause is a huge help in tackling the disease and we would encourage anyone to take advantage of this offer and get their golden oldie checked out.”
World Horse Welfare deputy chief executive, Tony Tyler, comments: “PPID (Cushing’s disease) is a significant risk factor for developing the devastating disease of laminitis, but thanks to this initiative, cases can be identified early and provided with more treatment options and support for both horses and their owners.
“If they haven’t already done so, I’d urge horse owners to take advantage of the free PPID test and support offered by the scheme.”
“The Talk About Laminitis disease awareness initiative has been instrumental in identifying PPID cases in laminitic horses,” adds Gemma Stanford, BHS head of welfare.  “As signs of PPID develop gradually we are urging owners of horses over 15 years of age to routinely test for PPID.”

For further information on TAL, please visit www.talkaboutlaminitis.co.uk or contact your local veterinary surgeon.

*   Free laboratory test

1. TAL data 2012-2015 Boehringer Ingelheim
2. McGowan T. et al 2013 “Prevalence, risk factors and clinical signs predictive for equine pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction in aged horses”
3. NEHS 2016