Wednesday, December 6, 2023

How To Tell If Your Horse Has Arthritis

Feeding To Beat Arthritis In Your Horse

Ask the Vet – Riding a horse with arthritis

Arthritis used to be a common reason for horses being euthanized, even in their early teens. Arthritis is a degeneration of joint tissues, making it painful for the horse to move. All the horse’s body tissues, including the joints, are constantly being stressed and used, undergoing minor injuries, being called on to strengthen so they can withstand different activities.

The only way your horse’s body can keep up with these demands, and keep repairing and rebuilding successfully, is if he has the raw materials on hand to do it.

“You are what you eat” is more than just a catchy phrase. The horse has to have a good supply of the horse feed needed to protect his joints from being excessively damaged from wear and tear before his body can get a chance to repair them.

Transporting A Horse With Arthritis

Unless youre taking a horse to a veterinary appointment its usually advised not to transport a sick horse.

But what about a horse with a condition like arthritis? Whether or not its in the horses best interest really has to come down to the individual case. As their owner you know your horse best but its always wise to obtain veterinary advice to be certain.

If you do decide to make the journey then always check youve the best horsebox insurance in place. Undertaking pre-journey safety checks is also vital for a successful journey.

Remember there are many potential risks when transporting your horse. No matter how short the distance you could be involved in a collision. For example, skidding on wet roads or swerving because of high winds, or even a blown tyre.

An accident could result in damage to your horsebox or, worst still, your horse. Horsebox insurance can help cover any financial costs of repairing your horsebox after an accident.

Muscle Sprain Or Strain

A muscle sprain happens abruptly when a joint is twisted or turned in a way that tears or severely stretches a ligament or muscle. A strain is different from a sprain because it is a stretching that occurs when a horse overuses it or moves in an unnatural way.

Horses dont have any muscles in their legs below the knee or hock, so muscle injuries usually occur higher up the leg or in the hip or shoulder.

A sprain is often more painful and takes longer to heal than a strain. These injuries most often occur during sporting activities or due to horses playing too hard.

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Q: Are There Noninvasive Or More Conservative Ways To Manage My Horses Arthritis

Lack of adequate pain control, costs associated with treatment, and undesirable side effects associated with commercial pain medications make horse owners covet alternative pain management strategies. These options include the nutritional supplements described, as well as acupuncture, shock wave therapy, and physical/rehabilitation therapy.

What we have learned from decades of work in human medicine is that many types of arthritis can benefit from correct movement to help realign the joint, says Sheila Schils, PhD in kinesiology/biomechanics. She is co-founder of and clinician at EquiNew, in River Falls, Wisconsin, which specializes in therapeutic modalities. This realignment is necessary due to the fact that incorrect biomechanics of the joints can cause unequal pressure and eventual breakdown of the joint, causing pain.

A good analogy is what happens if the wheels of your truck are not sitting on the axle straight and balanced the tires will wear unevenly, she adds. The outer edge of the tire can look like new, while the inner edge of the tire is worn down to the steel belts. Therefore, just changing the tires will not solve the problem. Instead, you need to fix the alignment of the wheel on the axle. This is the foundation behind the science of using correct movement patterns and correct lengths of time spent moving as soon as possible after diagnosing a problem to shorten and improve healing rates.

How Do I Know If My Horse Has Arthritis

Arthritis in horses: Symptoms, diagnosis and treatment ...

The appearance of clinical signs can often be delayed for several days after the initial infection and can extend up to 7 days after a cortisone injection, which has the effect of initially diminishing the clinical response. Horses with septic arthritis are usually severely lame, with pain on palpation or flexion of the affected joint. There is usually marked swelling of the joint, which also has a thickened joint capsule. Affected horses are usually depressed and have a . They may be pyrexia.

Sometimes low-grade septic arthritis and synovitis occur. Affected horses are moderately lame, but have severe synovitis and effusion, as well as pain on palpation of the joints, which are often very warm to touch.such horses may respond temporarily to treatment but frequently relapse. They are moderately depressed and often have only a slight temperature rise, to about 38.1-38.4° C.

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Diagnosing Equine Shoulder Pain

Sometimes perceived shoulder pain is a symptom of real pain elsewhere.

In a series of 59 horses presented to a specialty orthopedic referral clinic for suspected shoulder problems, only half actually turned out to have pain in the shoulder area. Severe pain in the lower leg, usually foot-pastern-ankle area, is often misinterpreted as shoulder pain.

This is either because the owner or trainer sees that the horse is unwilling to bring the leg forward freely, or because the shoulder area muscles are tense. Shortening of the stride is typical for any cause of pain in the lower leg. The tightness of the muscles comes from is involuntary splinting against the pain.

Reliable signs of possible shoulder problems include:

Pain when placing pressure in the shoulder area.

Swelling in the area of the joint.

Pain when the shoulder is pulled forward, back or out away from the body without flexing the joints of the lower leg.

Reluctance to advance the leg. In extreme cases, this will be obvious if the leg is brought any farther forward than the neutral, standing position. In others, the horse will move the leg forward but feel the pain when the leg is in motion off the ground and will put the leg down earlier than normal, without finishing the full stride.

With chronic cases, you may see atrophy of the chest and shoulder muscles, as well as an upright and smaller foot on the involved side, but these are not specific.

Types of Problems

Diagnosis Of Arthritis In Horses

To determine whether your horse has a form of arthritis or not, the veterinarian will need a thorough medical history and vaccination records. Be sure to let the veterinarian know if you have given your equine companion any kind of medication, and what symptoms you have noticed and when they started. The veterinarian will do a comprehensive physical examination, including, but not limited to, a body condition score based on your pets body weight, check for lameness, blood pressure, pulse, respiration rate, body temperature, and weight. Also, most veterinarians will do a quick examination of the teeth, nasal cavity, ears, and eyes. To check your horses muscle and joint functions, the veterinarian will examine the way the muscles work and manipulate the joints to check for restricted movements.

Radiographs are essential to diagnosing your horse and will show inflammation, thickening of the tissues around the cartilage, and decreased space in the joints. A sample of fluid in the joint area will be obtained to examine for bacteria or fungal infection. The veterinarian may also use an endoscope to get a better view of the ligaments and cartilage. Blood and urine tests will also be performed in case of any underlying disorders.

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Can Arthritis Be Treated

Unfortunately, despite medical advances its still not possible to cure arthritis. However, there are several treatments to reduce inflammation, slow further damage, ease pain and stiffness and possibly support the regeneration of cartilage.

The best treatment for your horse will be decided on a case-by-case basis in conversation with your veterinary professional.

As well as veterinary treatment, there are things you can do to help:

Do Horses Get Arthritis

5 Ways to Help a Horse With Arthritis

Horse Arthritis is not a single condition and is believed to represent over 60% of lameness issues in horses. The horses joints most effected are thought to be the knee, fetlock, pastern and hocks. Although mostly found in elderly horses the condition can be found in any horse of any age.

Horse Arthritis is not a single condition and is believed to represent over 60% of lameness issues in horses. The horses joints most effected are thought to be the knee, fetlock, pastern and hocks. Although mostly found in elderly horses the condition can be found in any horse of any age.

The three main forms of arthritis found in horses are:

Equine Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease are arthritic symptoms relating to the degeneration of a horses joints. This often affects horses as they get older but can be seen in younger horses with a more active lifestyle. OA often creates lameness.

Equine Rheumatoid

Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disease that attacks the joints. The horses body mistakes its own levels of protein for foreign protein and tries to eliminate them. This degrades the cartilage surrounding the joints. This also creates lameness at varying levels. While it is not often diagnosed in horses, a very similar inflammatory process has been seen in many cases, which includes joint swelling and synovial membrane irritation.

Traumatic arthritis

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As Usual Lets Start With A Bit Of Anatomy

The feet joint is scientifically called the distal interphalangeal joint. This represent the joint between the last two phalanges . It contains 3 bones: the 3rd phalange , the 2nd phalange and the navicular bone .

The articular cartilage of the joint is thick. That is because of its cushioning function. Indeed, this joint is under a lot of strain when the horse moves because it cushions the irregularities of the ground.

Symptoms Of Back Pain

Back pain in horses can present with a variety of symptoms. Some of the more common symptoms include:

  • Poor performance/reduced performance which may progress to behavioral problems . Many horses will feel disconnected from front to back, or may have a short strided gait in general.
  • Discomfort to grooming or pressure over the back. This should be interpreted with caution because some horses may simply be thin skinned and may not be experiencing significant back pain. A sudden change in your horses response to grooming may be an indicator of back pain however.
  • Resistance to saddling, increased girthiness or abnormal gait after being saddled.
  • Remember, some horses are very stoic! Many will still perform well yet still show evidence of significant back pain on clinical examination. A careful examination of the back should be part of any lameness/soundness evaluation and can be checked even in the absence of performance problems.

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Q: Are Horses With Arthritis Simply Not Going To Improve Is It Really Just About Managing Pain

Yes. As unpleasant as this answer might be, and despite decades of research in this field in humans and animals, a cure for OA remains elusive. Pain control is a key component of managing arthritic horses, which you and your veterinarian can address both pharmaceutically and with complementary and alternative therapies.

Unfortunately, factors outside the joint environment also impact a horses condition, such as the overall health of the animal, endocrine status, rules governing drug usage and withdrawal times in competition, and even owner expectations and financial commitment, says Contino.

Euthanasia Due To Insufficient Funds For Necessary Treatments

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One of the harsh realities of being a horse owner is that sometimes there are treatments and remedies available that you simply cant afford. Many people dont have the finances to spends thousands upon thousands of dollars to provide their horse with expert medical help.

While finances can be a major hurdle for caring for the needs of a horse, Ive had friends that have raised thousands of dollars for medical treatments for their pets utilizing social media and other platforms to raise awareness. While this route may or may not be successful, it can help put you at ease knowing that you did your best to provide the proper treatments for your horse.

Here are some of the popular websites you might consider using to raise funds:

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How To Treat Arthritis In Horses

This article was co-authored by Ryan Corrigan, LVT, VTS-EVN. Ryan Corrigan is a Licensed Veterinary Technician in California. She received her Bachelor of Science in Veterinary Technology from Purdue University in 2010. She is also a Member of the Academy of Equine Veterinary Nursing Technicians since 2011. This article has been viewed 9,173 times.

Arthritis is a painful joint problem that affects horses as well as humans. If your four-legged friend is suffering from the problem, supplements and medications can provide some relief from painful inflammation. Making lifestyle changes, like light exercise and farrier work, can also increase your horses comfort and quality of life. Since arthritis is almost impossible to stop, it is important to keep in touch with a veterinarian for advice on continued treatment.

What Causes Arthritis In Horses

The sheer size and weight of a horses natural mass takes a toll on the cartilage, fluids, ligaments, and bones that compose their joints. The cartilage in your horses joints acts a cushion, allowing the two bones forming the joint to glide around one another smoothly. Over time, though, your horses natural body weight can steadily erode this cartilage. Arthritis is the result of damage to your horses joints meaning that the exact cause is non-specific. Theres no singular thing that causes arthritis. Instead, its usually the result of a handful of factors, some that you may be able to control as an owner, and others that are simply beyond prevention. One of the most common causes of arthritis in horses is a joint strain. While you may not think of your horse being very delicate, the inner workings of their joints are a sensitive construction.

Other factors like birth defects, obesity, certain organ diseases, and so on can contribute to the damage that occurs on your horses joints. While you may not see symptoms of arthritis immediately following these conditions, years of damage adds up. And like a domino effect, each of these problems tends to lead into one another, creating a cascade of joint damage.

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How Do You Treat Arthritis In Horses

  • Early and aggressive treatment is required. If possible arthroscopic examination of the joint should be performed.
  • This enables a thorough examination and removal of any fibrin clots and other debris. Most importantly, it allows extensive lavage of the joint.
  • If arthroscopy cannot be performed, lavage via a 10-14 gauge catheter should be performed.
  • An ingress and egress catheter should be placed on either side of the joint, and 10-15 L balanced polyionic solution flushed through. Saline should be avoided, as this can be irritant to articular cartilage and synovial membrane.
  • During flushing, the egress cannula should be frequently closed to allow distension irrigation of the joint.
  • The use of intra-articular medication is controversial. The main objection has been that the drugs used will create synovitis and thus harm articular cartilage.
  • However, in view of the severity of the disease process induced by the sepsis, the additional synovitis is probably minimal.

Identify And Treat Equine Sacroiliac Problems


Your horse gallops, jumps, collects, turns and extends his stride with power from his hindquarters. And his sacroiliac jointthe meeting place of his pelvis and spineis critical at every stride. It transfers the action of his hind legs to his back, translating the push into forward motion.

Given the forces that this joint handles day in and day out, it’s not unusual for horses to develop SI pain. The trick is recognizing the problem: SI injuries are notoriously hard to pin down, with subtle and confusing signs, easily mistaken for other physical or even behavioral problems. Even a “hunter’s bump,” a raised area at the top of the croup that’s often thought to reveal SI trouble, isn’t a reliable sign.

How can you tell if your horse develops SI pain? And, more to the point, what can you do to help him if he does? For this article, we asked Kevin Haussler, DVM, DC, PhD, of the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at Colorado State University, for help in answering those questions.

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Diagnosing Primary Back Problems

Radiographs and ultrasound can be performed on the farm to assess the horse for primary back problems. In some instances, a bone scan might be recommended if the case is complicated or not responding as predicted.

Moderate to severe kissing spine lesions. There are overriding dorsal spinous processes with active bony lysis at the sites of impingement.

Besides kissing spine lesions, other primary back problems include injuries to the ligaments of the back, including the supraspinous ligament and the dorsal sacroiliac ligaments. Horses may also have arthritis of the joints or facets of the spine. These conditions are best imaged with ultrasound, but often times are brought to our attention following a bone scan that shows active bony turnover in these regions. Treatment for primary back pain depends on the problem found and may include:

  • Injections of anti-inflammatory medications +/- shockwave therapy around the sites of kissing spine lesions
  • Bisphosphonates such as Tildren or Os Phos
  • Thoracolumbar facet injections in the case of joint arthritis
  • Rest, shockwave or regenerative therapies in the case of soft tissue injuries

In most cases of primary back pain, there will still be pain and spasm of the surrounding longissimus muscles that will also benefit from treatment.

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