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How To Treat Excessive Use Of Cortisone In The Horse

Updated: Mar 13, 2023

Cortisone is still one of the most commonly used drugs in equine practice. The anti-inflammatory effects of the cortisone drugs can be of benefit to the animal. The problem here, as in the case of most drug therapy, is that over usage can be detrimental to the horse.

Cortisone is produced naturally in the body in an organ called the adrenal gland. When a horse is given cortisone through injection, the gland will close down, and therefore cease to produce any of its own cortisone. In other words, the adrenal gland is capable of monitoring the amount of cortisone in the horse's body. If too much is present, then the gland will not simply produce any of its own cortisone. Once this adrenal gland has shut down, it can be very difficult for it to start up again. If the gland stays shut down for a period of two weeks or more, than the horse may begin to take on a rather sickly appearance.

Horses with this condition typically have abnormally long hair coats even in summer months. As well the hair is very dry and the animal may be somewhat dehydrated. Basically the horse presents as a debilitated animal.

The treatment is very simple. ACTH or adrenocorticotropic hormone, will quite literally turn the adrenal gland back on. Once the gland starts to work normally again, the sickly signs slowly disappear.

If you are routinely using a large amount of cortisone drugs in your treatment of a horse, then ACTH should be administered to the animal intermittently. Two hundred units of ACTH every two weeks to a month is usually sufficient.

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