Joint Deterioration in Older Horses

Dresssage Horse

“I have a 19 year old thoroughbred gelding. He is 17.3 and has just been diagnosed with arthritis and fairly severe joint deterioration. I have had a hard time finding information on the best way to treat him. I would like to keep riding him if that’s possible. I do dressage with him. How would you suggest treating him? I want to keep him out of pain as much as possible. I also am on a fairly tight budget which makes treatment even harder.”

– HG

 

Dear HG,

I would love for you to be able keep riding your horse—in fact, daily exercise is one of the best things for him! Just make sure you limit lunging and other repetitive activities and use nice, long warm-ups and cool-downs. If you’re working at the upper levels, consider bringing him down to a level where there’s less collection, torque and hard work. Because keeping joints moving will help, try to turn him out as much as possible and avoid excessive stall time if you can. Other management tips include: keeping him at his ideal weight so he’s not carrying extra pounds and asking your farrier if special trimming or shoeing techniques, such as rocker toes for easier breakover, may be helpful.

When it comes to actually treating arthritis, there are quite a few options. They vary in price, convenience and effectiveness; often a combined approach works best. But every horse responds differently. I recommend working closely with your veterinarian to develop the best plan for your horse then keeping a journal of what you’ve tried, what it cost, and how well it worked.

I’ve lumped therapies into the following categories and provided examples of each:

Prescription products:


•Oral joint products: (glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, hyaluronic acid, MSM)

•Other oral products for discomfort, anti-oxidant protection, etc. (omega-3 fatty acids, cetyl myristoleate, devil’s claw, yucca, boswellia)

Other treatment choices you may want to talk to your veterinarian about include acupuncture, shock wave therapy, passive range of motion exercises and magnetic therapy. I’m confident you will find a plan that works for both you and your horse!

Lydia F. Gray, DVM MA, currently serves as the Medical Director/Staff Veterinarian for SmartPak Equine. Prior to joining SmartPak, Dr. Gray served as the first-ever Director of Owner Education for the American Association of Equine Practitioners. She has authored numerous articles in publications such as The Horse, Horse Illustrated, Western Horseman and a variety of veterinary journals and magazines. Dr. Gray is also a frequent speaker at horse expos, veterinary conventions and other locations. After graduating with honors from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine and receiving her Master's Degree in Interpersonal and Organizational Communication, she practiced at the Tremont Veterinary Clinic for several years. Dr Gray is active in the American Veterinary Medical Association and Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association and enjoys training and showing her trakehner Newman in her spare time.  Find Dr. Gray on Google+

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