Diagnostic Process in a Crioulo Horse with Cushing’s Syndrome

Fernanda Aquino Franco, Fernanda Carlini Cunha dos Santos, Gabriela Vicensi da Costa, Henrique Ramos Oliveira, Lays Wouters Ugolini, Carlos Bondan, Leonardo Porto Alves


Background: Equine pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction, also known as equine Cushing’s syndrome, is a neurodegenerative disease. An important risk factor for Cushing’s is advanced aging and it is the most common endocrine disorder in older horses. The prevalence in horses aged over 10 and 15 years is reported as 9.3% and 21%, respectively. Due to the slow progressive nature of the disease, seasonal variation in hormone output and overlapping endocrine response to other events, accurate diagnosis is challenging. The diagnosis requires the combination of anamnesis, clinical signs, in addition to laboratory tests results. This study aimed to report Cushing’s syndrome in a Crioulo breed horse focusing on diagnostic methods.

Case: A 13-year-old male Crioulo breed, orchiectomized, was attended at the Universidade de Passo Fundo (UPF), in Passo Fundo, RS, Brazil. The owner reported that the animal had progressive weight loss and coat abnormal growth, with curly appearance. From visual inspection, body condition score was 4 (1-9) bulging abdomen was noticed, hirsutism, depression and lethargy. Also, there was a large neoplastic mass on the left side of gluteal region. Later, this mass was classified in histopathological examination as a fibroblastic sarcoid and was treated. The animal presented physical parameters within the physiological limits of the specie. Normochromic normocytic anemia and neutrophilic leukocytosis were reported in the hematologic evaluation. In coproparasitological examination, there were 300 eggs per gram of feaces. Hyperadrenocorticism was suspected in the clinical examination and dexamethasone suppression test was performed to confirm the fact. Basal serum was collected at 17 h (M0) and subsequently 40 µg/kg of dexamethasone was administered intramuscularly. Serum samples were taken after 15 (M15) and 19 (M19) h, resulting in cortisol levels of 1.7 and 1.8 μg/dL, respectively. The M15 and M19 results were above reference values for horses (below 1 μg/dL). Combination of information gathered from anamnesis, clinical examination and dexamethasone suppression test resulted in the definitive diagnosis of hyperadrenocorticism, also known as Cushing’s syndrome. Paliative treatment included shearing all over the body and vitamin supplementation.

Discussion: In animals without obvious clinical signs, Cushing's syndrome diagnosis is challenging. The most unique and specific clinical signs are the development of abnormal hair coat, mainly hirsutism, delayed or incomplete shedding, and in aged horse, lightening of coat color. The mechanistic cause of these signs is still barely understood. Cushing's is a collection of syndromes each with a unique set of clinical signs and hormone profiles, which varies according to each individual. Complementary examinations are extremely important and endocrine tests are highly recommended in addition to suggestive findings. However, despite the variety of existing tests, false negatives or false positives can frequently happen. Dexamethasone suppression test is considered the gold standard, well validated, practical and low cost for the diagnosis of this disease. In the present report, the combination of anamnesis (13 years old, weight loss, and abnormal coat), clinical exam (hirsutism) and dexamethasone suppression test (over 1 μg/dL of cortisol 15 h and 19 h after dexamethasone administration) resulted in the definitive diagnosis of Cushing’s syndrome. Measurements of plasma concentrations of cortisol and adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), thyrotropin releasing hormone (TRH) stimulation test, serum insulin concentration and necropsy are other available tests. History, clinical signs and test results are important to achieve the definitive diagnoses, and when possible, it is advisable to perform post-mortem evaluation of the pituitary gland.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.22456/1679-9216.105355

Copyright (c) 2021 Fernanda Aquino Franco, Fernanda Carlini Cunha Santos, Gabriela Costa Vicensi, Henrique Ramos Oliveira, Leonardo Motta Fornari, Lays Wouters Ugolini, Leonardo Porto Alves

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