Osteoarthritis in horses: symptoms

Osteoarthritis in horses: symptoms

Sep 21, 2023Valerie De Clerck

If your equine friend has developed osteoarthritis, not only his joints are wearing but also his bones, cartilage and the surrounding ligaments will be affected. Sounds painful - believe me, it is! The sooner you spot this nasty ailment, the more successfully you will be able to support your horse. For your convenience, we list the most important symptoms here.

This is how you spot osteoarthritis in your horse

1. Your horse has become less flexible

Osteoarthritis doesn’t usually start with obvious lameness but with a stiff and rigid gait. Your horse is slow to get going and seems less flexible when being ridden. In the case of osteoarthritis of the neck, he will find it difficult to stretch or flex his neck.

Typical symptom of osteoarthritis: after a ten-minute warm-up your equine friend will gradually move less rigidly. Movement warms up the muscles, tendons and joints and soon gets him moving more freely.

2. Your horse has problems rolling and getting up

Is your horse rolling less frequently and is he struggling to get up? This can be caused by a lack of flexibility in his vertebral column, with osteoarthritis as the primary cause.

3. Your horse is acting up while being ridden

When making certain movements, like jumping and landing, your horse’s cartilage is put under great strain. Worn cartilage absorbs shocks less well and this can be extremely painful for your horse.

Is your horse balking at certain exercises, does he push away his back or does he feel tense? Is he hesitant when you want him to jump or gallop, or does he downright refuse? He may very well be suffering from osteoarthritis.

4. Your horse is lame

Osteoarthritis causes a stabbing pain when making certain movements. So, your horse can be pretty lame, which is especially noticeable when performing a volte and straight line.

Another obvious sign of lameness: when your horse’s head nods with every move. This will be most obvious while trotting.

5. Your horse is irritable and moody

If your horse is in pain, he can be irritable and moody (face it, how would you be yourself?). He will be less tolerant of people and other horses, will pin his ears back, swish his tail and bite or kick.

6. Your horse has trouble chewing

If your equine friend drops food out of his mouth, chews at a slant or on one side only, his jaw joint is probably sore - with osteoarthritis at the root. Mind: these signs can also be a symptom of general dental problems.

Do the above symptoms sound familiar? In that case, your horse is more than likely suffering from osteoarthritis. Unfortunately, there is no cure but luckily it can be treated. What’s more, the sooner you take action, the better you will be able to help your horse. Time for a visit to the vet in other words! We wish you every success!

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