Arthritis is one of the most frequent causes of debilitation and lameness in horses. It happens when there is continuous inflammation of cartilage at the joint, leading to the complete destruction of that cartilage.
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As time passes, the cartilage of the joint becomes so thin that it causes severe pain, stiffness, and restricted range of motion.
What is probably the most frustrating and unfortunate aspect of arthritis in horses is that it is not a reversible condition, meaning the condition will only worsen over time if not treated.
While there’s absolutely not any way to cure arthritis in horses, there’s certainly a large selection of treatments available that can help slow the destructive process and offer some relief to your horse.
Continue Regular Exercise
Unless your horse is severely lame, you should always continue to provide regular, daily exercise into your horse. The benefit of exercise is that it allows for the continuing support and strengthening of the muscles that support the joints. This is turn helps the cartilage of the joints to stay strong and can help reduce the quick progression of arthritis.
Additionally, horses which are regularly exercised on a consistent basis have a much lower probability of developing arthritis. Since exercises produce repetitive strengthening of the joints and related cartilage, it’s always good to keep your horse active and well-exercised.
Corticosteroid and Hyaluronic Acid Injections
After your horse has been diagnosed with arthritis, the first line of defense is generally a two-part injection of hyaluronic acid and a corticosteroid. Hyaluronic acid is naturally produced by the joint fluid, which produces an anti-inflammatory effect. When this is injected into a horse’s joint, it tends to strengthen the joint and also prompts the body to start producing more lipoic acid.
Given together with hyaluronic acid is a corticosteroid, which also produces anti-inflammatory effects. However, the advantage of the corticosteroid is that it has the ability to halt to the deterioration of the joint relatively quickly, essentially offering an enormous amount of pain relief. Based on the severity of arthritis and lameness, this sort of injection is usually given once every six to 12 weeks.