Arthritis In Horses: The Definition, Signs, Diagnosis, And Management Tips

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Arthritis is also known as Osteoarthritis or Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD). Horse, especially the old ones, is one of the animals that have a high risk of this health issue. This is a slowly progressing chronic inflammation that affects horse’s articular cartilage in its joint. It is such a painful disease and causes a lameness.

The normal articular cartilage is smooth and slippy that makes the leg moves comfortably while the affected one lost its smoothness causing rigid moves to the horse. The joints in fetlock, hock, knee, and coffin are most likely at risk of arthritis. The reasons why older horses are more prone to this disease, it is because trauma to the joint resulting from hard work for years is the most cause of arthritis.


arthritis in horses
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Signs of Arthritis in Horses

When your horse walks painfully, rigidly with shorter step, it could be the early sign of arthritis. The horse becomes unenergetic, unwillingly to do the activities that he used to do in younger age and warmth in the area of certain joints could also be signs of the disease.

Knowing the signs of arthritis is important so you can give the treatment as soon as possible. If the disease is ignored, it could increase the severity of the joint inflammation. Talk to your veterinarian, or take the horse to the equine hospital when you found those symptoms.


Diagnosis of Arthritis in Horses

The first diagnosis is a historical record, physical examination and testing the movement of the horse. Further development may involve X-ray, ultrasound, MRI, or CT-Scan to know more about the severity of the disease.

You can also examine arthritis in horses by yourself by probing the joint of your horse. If he shows the signs of feeling pain like moving away his body when you press the joint, stepping back, or wringing his tail, you should consider having a talk to a vet immediately.


Management of Arthritis in Horses

Unfortunately, there is no any cure for this disease, what we are able to do is to manage it. Management here is about slowing the development of arthritis, so it won’t get worse, and also to decrease the pain. The vet may give some prescription like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug and inject glucosamine or hyaluronic acid. Products like Adequan and Legend Injectable Solution are the most proper ones to handle this joint disease.

For self-management, you can do these following activities:

  • Always keep your horse exercising like take him for a walk because if your horse stays for a long time inside his stall, his joint will become more stiff and painful.
  • Give your horse supplements to support the prescription. The ones which contain hyaluronic acid, chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine can help the joint to get better. It is always much better to give supplements as the prevention to your horse before the disease affects him.
  • Trimm the hooves regularly. It has been well known that hoof has an important role for horse’s movement, therefore, trimming his hoof will help to reduce joint tension.
  • Avoid obesity or over-weight, because the heavier you horse is, the harder his arthritis can be helped. You have to manage your horse’s diet to determine the nutrition and calories of the food that you serve.