Since horses cannot verbalize physical discomfort, it’s up to the horse owners and their veterinarians to be their advocates for proper treatment.
Danielle Pusillo, territory manager, Penn Vet Supply, said equine osteoarthritis is very common among the veterinarians she serves in her territory, as well as throughout the entire United States. “It’s an inevitable attribute of aging or athletic horses.”
While COVID hasn’t changed much of the normal routine of horse owners, the pandemic may have changed their financial constraints, with so many joint supplements and treatments for OA on the market the options are endless. Horse owners may start with more conservative measures like consumable joint supplements then opt for injectable joint supplements or joint injections if the desired result is not reached.
Most likely the symptoms of equine osteoarthritis are noticing the horse is slowing down or having trouble preforming tasks/movements that were once effortless. Their overall performance could be declining, and they could be less willing to run around in the field or have trouble rising from a sternal position, Pusillo said. In some cases, the osteoarthritis could be causing pain which can be noticed in behavioral changes that the horse exhibits.
Prevention and treatment
Early prevention is always a topic of discussion, Pusillo said. For example, racehorses that begin their career at an early age are always more susceptible to early onset osteoarthritis as their joints are experiencing more wear and tear before maturity. Feed through joint supplements, primarily with Glucosamine, or injectable joint supplements are one avenue of preventative measures that horse owners can take to combat the onset of osteoarthritis, Pusillo said.
“One main topic of discussion most veterinarians will have with horse owners is not to push their younger horses too soon, too fast,” she said. “Doing so may cause more health issues later in their life as their bodies weren’t allowed to mature properly. Joint injections are another popular prevention strategy veterinarians offer. These injections contain steroids and sometimes the presence of hyaluronic acid which helps lubricate the joint surface, treat inflammation, and promote mobility and comfort.”
Another treatment option, joint supplements for horses are primarily talking feed through (consumable) or injectable, Pusillo said. “There’s controversy whether injectables or feed throughs are more effective, and it really boils down to what the horse owner is more comfortable with and prefers.”
Pusillo cautioned that feed through supplements are not for everyone. “People who have multiple horses on turn out may have a difficult time feeding a joint supplement to select horses, they may have to separate the horses receiving the supplement to ensure the right horse is eating the correct feed or the horse may not like the palatability of the supplement. Adversely, you may have a horse that is ill behaved when given injections.”
The effectiveness of a joint supplement is a direct result of the horse owner’s compliance to give that supplement based on the veterinarian provided instructions. For example, most joint supplements have loading dosages and maintenance dosages. When administered per those instructions, the supplement should be effective. “Most horse owners will argue the injectable joint supplements are more effective as they can ensure the horse receives the supplement since they, or their veterinarian, administer it on the spot,” Pusillo said.
Since horses cannot verbalize their physical discomfort, it is up to the horse owners and their veterinarians to be their advocates and notice when something isn’t right, she said. “Early detection is key.”
Photo credit: istockphoto.com/golero
Photo credit: istockphoto.com/mgstudyo