Arthritis is a degenerative inflammatory condition of the joints characterised by the damage or loss of cartilage found in joints.
But what does this mean?
Joints contain fluid and specialised tissue that helps them to move without friction. As our horse's age, this tissue can begin to wear away due to use, trauma, or injury. This wear and tear make the two surfaces inside the joint more rough causing friction and inflammation within the joint. Eventually, the tissue protecting the bones surface will become so worn that the bone becomes damaged, and the joint becomes stiff and painful. Unfortunately, we cannot repair or regrow this tissue in the body, but there are things that we can do to slow down the progression of the condition and help the horse to remain comfortable.
Weight management is one of the most important things to consider with horses with osteoarthritis. It is very simple, less weight going through joints means less pain and less wear and tear. Use the body condition score chart to assess your horse's weight and keep a watchful eye particularly in the summer months.
Here are some things that you can do to reduce your horse’s weight:
· Restricted grazing
· Feed soaked hay from trickle feeder nets
· Swap for a low-calorie balancer or feed
· Reduce rugging (see the rugging guide below for more advice)
· Cut out the treats - be cruel to be kind, they will thank you later
Whilst we are on the topic of food and diet, joint supplements can help to maintain joint health and slow the degeneration of the condition. But with so many on the market, it is easy to get confused. There has been some positive research in joint supplements containing glucosamine and chondroitin. These ingredients are found in many joint supplements found in your local tack store and help to maintain good joint health.
There is also a new ingredient on the market called Avocado Soybean Unsaponifiable (ASU) which is a natural extract that has been shown to support the regeneration of healthy connective tissue. This supplement supports healthy tissue and helps to prevent damage to the joints. It is not found in many supplements as it is relevantly new, but I have seen Omega Equine sell a product called ASU Extra that contains this ingredient.
It is always important to discuss your horse's specific scenarios with your vet as no two horses are the same, but it may be that high impact activities such as jumping larger obstacles, high-speed work on hard ground, and long periods of trotting on the roads should be avoided. However, horses with arthritis do benefit from regular exercise so it is recommended that you keep your horse turned out as much as possible and keep them active, even just for a gentle walk down the road if this is all that they can manage.
Book a session with Goldney EquinePhysio today to create a unique exercise plan to help keep on top of osteoarthritis and for more help and advice on the condition.