Osteoarthritis in Horses: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments
Horses are majestic animals that have been used for transportation, recreation, and sport for centuries. They are also beloved companions and valued members of families that are privileged enough to raise them. (They can be quite expensive to keep!)
Unfortunately, despite their strength and beauty, horses are prone to certain health conditions that can significantly impact their quality of life.
In this article, we will look at Equine Osteoarthritis, one of the most common ailments that a horse can get, and learn about the different treatment options that exist toonily.
What is Equine Osteoarthritis?
This is a common degenerative joint disease that affects horses of all ages and breeds. This condition occurs when the cartilage in the joints deteriorates. When this happens, the bones begin to rub against each other, leading to inflammation, pain, and stiffness.
The joint may also lose its normal range of motion, and the horse may develop muscle wasting. This results in inflammation and pain. Osteoarthritis can be caused by a variety of factors, including injury, overuse, and aging.
Sadly, this condition can have a significant impact on a horse’s quality of life as much of their work comes from their strength and mobility.
It can be quite tough to cope with seeing your horse in pain. It was not uncommon at one time for owners to sell or put down horses that developed conditions where their productivity was affected.
What are the Signs and Symptoms?
The signs of osteoarthritis in horses can be subtle and may not be immediately obvious. Some of the most common signs include lameness, stiffness, and reluctance to move. The horse may also show signs of pain when the joint is manipulated or when pressure is applied to the affected area.
As the condition progresses, the horse may develop muscle wasting and may also experience difficulty rising or lying down.
Osteoarthritis can affect any joint in the horse’s body, but it is most commonly found in the knees, hocks, and stifles. The condition can also occur in the neck, back, and jaw. In some cases, the horse may develop osteoarthritis in multiple joints.
What Causes Equine Osteoarthritis?
The causes of osteoarthritis in horses are varied, but one of the most common causes is injury. Trauma to a joint, such as a fracture or ligament tear, can damage the cartilage and lead to the development of osteoarthritis.
This is especially true in working horses, who are at an increased risk of joint injury due to the demands of their activities.
Another major cause of equine osteoarthritis is overuse. Repetitive stress on a joint, such as from intense exercise or work, can cause the cartilage to wear down over time. This is particularly true for horses that are used for sport or work, as well as older horses, who may have more difficulty maintaining the health of their joints.
Genetics also plays a role in the development of equine osteoarthritis. Some breeds of horses, such as warmbloods, draft horses, and thoroughbreds, are more prone to developing the condition than others. Age is also a factor in the development of equine osteoarthritis.
As horses age, their joints naturally begin to wear down, and the risk of developing osteoarthritis increases. This is why older horses are more likely to be affected by the condition. Obesity is another factor that can contribute to the development of osteoarthritis in horses, as the extra weight places additional stress on the joints.
What are the Treatment Options Available?
The good news is that osteoarthritis is a treatable condition, and there are several options available. The most common treatment is the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to reduce inflammation and pain.
Other treatment options include the use of DMSO for horses. DMSO is sometimes used in horses to help alleviate pain and inflammation associated with certain conditions, such as osteoarthritis and soft tissue injuries.
It is typically applied topically, either as a gel or liquid, and is believed to work by penetrating the skin and reducing inflammation in the affected area.
If you are thinking of using DMSO gel, you should be aware that its use in horses requires a veterinarian’s prescription and adherence to specific guidelines for usage, dosage, and administration.
Besides NSAIDS and DMSO, you can also try joint supplements, such as glucosamine and chondroitin, and the use of physical therapy, such as massage and stretching, to improve joint mobility.
Proper health care for horses is essential to ensure that they are able to live happy, healthy lives. Regular veterinary check-ups and vaccinations are important components of horse health care. This is because early diagnosis and treatment can slow down the progression of osteoarthritis.