The Latest Insights into Managing Joint Disease in Horses

Looking for new ways to manage joint disease in horses? According to one researcher, there's no need to throw the baby out with the bath water--a mix of traditional options with new therapeutic methods could be what's needed.

"Traditional corticosteroids remain a mainstay in the treatment of joint-related lameness in horses," relayed David Frisbie, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVS, from Colorado State University's Gail Holmes Equine Orthopaedic Research Center, at the 12th Congress of the World Equine Veterinary Association, held Nov. 2-6, 2011, in Hyderabad, India.

Vetalog (triamcinolone acteonide) and Celestone (betamethasone esters) are appropriate and common injection choices despite the concern regarding inducing laminitis with repeated us of intra-articular corticosteroids.

According to one study Frisbie cited, only three out of 2,000 horses evaluated developed laminitis after an intra-articular injection with corticosteroids, and two of those were ponies with a history of laminitis.

Since horse owners are often looking for that little extra bang for their buck, Frisbie suggested adding hyaluronic acid with the corticosteroid in the injection.

"There is evidence to suggest that hyaluronic acid and the corticosteroid have an additive effect when administered together," said Frisbie.

The topical non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) Surpass (1% diclofenac sodium) is another positive addition to battling lameness due to joint disease or osteoarthritis (OA).

"Based on the available data, Surpass appears to be both able to improve symptoms of OA and decrease the rate of disease progression, which other NSAIDs are not able to do," Frisbie explained. "In addition, no side effects have been noted, and because Surpass does not appear to be absorbed systemically, the traditional side effects of NSAIDs, such as gastric ulcers and kidney damage, are not expected to be as pronounced."

Other beneficial medications/techniques Frisbie identified to either prevent or manage joint disease were:

  • Extracorporeal shock wave therapy (used in conjunction with Surpass);
  • Polysulfated glycosaminoglycans (intra-articular or systemic); and
  • Oral avocado/soybean unsaponifiables (ASU) or glucosamine/chondroitin sulfate products.

While it's important that equestrians know what options are available for managing joint disease, they should discuss each particular horse's treatment plan with a veterinarian prior to beginning a joint health regimen.

Disclaimer: Seek the advice of a qualified veterinarian before proceeding with any diagnosis, treatment, or therapy.

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