JOINT PROBLEMS AND ARTHRITIS IN HORSES AND PONIES
DO FEED SUPPLEMENTS HELP FOR (OSTEO)ARTHRITIS IN HORSES?
Valerie De Clerck, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine
Arthritis is the most common cause of lameness in horses regardless of their discipline or occupation. When your horse has an inflammation of the joint it is important to alleviate pain and to reduce the inflammation as soon as possible. Always contact your veterinarian for advice.
Feed supplements can be an important part of the prevention and treatment of joint problems. There are several types of joint supplements on the market and it is therefore important to choose wisely. In this article we will explain you what (osteo)arthritis is and which supplements might help to support the joints of your horse.
what is (osteo)arthritis in horses?
Arthritis can be simply defined as inflammation of the joint. It can occur suddenly after trauma or gradually due to intensive training or ageing of the horse.
If the cartilage of the joint is also damaged, we call it osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis can not be cured, and therefore reducing inflammation, pain and preventing further damage is crucial when your horse has arthritis.
LET’S have a look at THE NORMAL ANATOMY OF A JOINT IN A HORSE
A joint is simply the place in your horse’s body where two bones are connected. To move over each other, the bones are covered by a soft cushion, called the cartilage. The two bones are further secured by ligaments and the joint capsule.
To allow a smooth movement, the joint cavity is filled with synovial fluid. The joint capsule has an inner layer (synovium) which regulates the amount of synovial fluid and an elastic outer layer that allows movement of the joint.
DID YOU KNOW
that a defect in the cartilage can hardly recover? Total renewal of collagen - one of the main components in cartilage - would take over 100 years… Correct, that exceeds by far the lifetime of your horse.
WHY ARE SPORT HORSES PRONE TO JOINT PROBLEMS?
In sport horses, who train intensively, arthritis is often caused by a repetitive high impact loading on the joint. This leads to inflammation of the joint capsule.
FROM ARTHRITIS (inflammation) TO OSTEOARTHRITIS (damaged cartilage)
STAGE I: inflammation of the joint capsule
The joint capsule is inflamed, swollen and red. The joint capsule releases substances (degrading enzymes and cytokines) which damage the cartilage.
The amount of joint fluid increases and the joint is swollen. The swelling causes pain and discomfort for the horse and leads to micro-instability of the joint, which again damages the cartilage.
STAGE II: cartilage damage = fibrillation
The substances are further damaging the cartilage, which is called fibrillation.
STAGE III: chronic inflammation
The inflammation of the joint becomes chronic and the cartilage damage goes down to the bone. The cushion between the bones is now almost gone.
STAGE IV:damage to the bone
The bones are now moving over each other without a cushion. This damages the bone and is very painful. The joint capsule is no longer elastic but became firm and rigid. The joint is stiffer and limited in its ability to move and shock absorption gets worse.
WHICH SUPPLEMENTS CAN HELP TO SUPPORT the joints of MY horse?
Once the cartilage is damaged it can not be repaired. Therefore, early treatment - and even better - prevention of arthritis is important. The right nutrition, a training program adapted to your horse's needs and proper shoeing will get you a long way.
When choosing a feed supplement to support the joints of your horse can choose between two major "groups" of supplements.
1. Feed supplements containing building blocks for the joints
2. Feed supplements containing natural painkillers and anti-inflammatory plants to support a horse with arthritis.
When your horse is lame and the joint is inflamed (arthritis) it is very important to contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.
In addition, you can support the joints of your horse with plant-based ingredients with natural painkilling and anti-inflammatory effects, such as Indian frankincense (Boswellia serrata), turmeric (Curcuma longa), blackcurrant (Ribes nigrum) and meadowsweet (Spiraea ulmaria).
Plants like horse-chestnut promote blood flow, which has a beneficial effect on the healing of the joints.
FLEXI MIX PLUS (FLEXI MIX + CURCA-FLEX LIQUID) is an excellent combination of building blocks for the cartilage and plants to support the natural defence of the joints.
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