healthy joints, happy horse

Although many forelimb lamenesses can be attributed to the hoof, other causes of forelimb and hindlimb lameness problems in the horse are related to osteoarthritis (OA), otherwise known as degenerative joint disease. OA is a slow, irreversible process involving the weakening of joint cartilage and the underlying bone, and development of bony spurs at the edges of the joint. It predisposes to bone fragmentation (bone chips) within the joint. Horses of all breeds can be predisposed, but age and discipline can be a significant factor.

What does this mean?
OA can cause the following clinical signs: joint pain, inflammation, lameness, and loss of joint motility. This is due to a decrease in quality of synovial (joint) fluid, decreased stabilisation of the joint and cartilage wearing. These changes can lead to poor performance or even mean early retirement for a horse. This could be why you notice your horse being stiffer after long periods of rest, or first thing in the morning before turning them out in the paddock.Recently, there has been a large increase in the use of OA preventive medications such as pentosan polysulfate, but what do they actually do?This drug helps to modify osteoarthritis, by acting in several ways:                          • Stimulates production of synovial fluid, to help lubricate the joint                                                      • Aids cartilage repair and protection                                                                                                    • Increases blood supply to the joint                                                                                                     • Prevents destructive enzymes that break down cartilage                                                                  • Stimulates growth factors that promote cartilage production and reduce inflammation

Studies have shown that through the use of pentosan polysulfate, horses have less articular cartilage breakdown, improved lameness, decreased pain on joint flexion and better quality of synovial fluid. There are various products available that contain pentosan polysulphate; speak to your vet in regards to OA prevention and treatment for your horse.