Indications for Joint Injections

Your vet might choose to inject your horse if his joints require direct treatment due to disease, inflammation, or pain.
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Indications for Joint Injections
Your vet might choose to inject your horse if his joints require direct treatment due to disease, inflammation, or pain. | Photo: Alexandra Beckstett/The Horse
By Josh Donnell, DVM, and David Frisbie, DVM, DIPL. ACVS, ACVSMR

Joint injections have become a common procedure for treating equine athletes. In a 2009 survey of 831 AAEP veterinarians, over 50% said they performed joint injections on at least 10 horses a month and 14% said they injected more than 50 horses’ joints per month.

Veterinarians might choose to inject a horse if the joints require direct treatment due to disease, inflammation, or pain. The most common joint disease is osteoarthritis (OA), which represents a group of disorders characterized by articular cartilage damage or deterioration and changes in the joint bones and soft tissues. Its cause is very complex, but simplistically OA is due to inflammation or trauma, which most commonly results from abnormal stresses or forces on the joint, including cyclic trauma or instability. Joint inflammation and articular damage can cause pain, which generally manifests as lameness in horses. Lameness continues to be the most common cause of poor performance and economic loss in horses.

As an owner you might ask why your horse needs to have multiple joints injected, sometimes as often as two to three times a year, to perform at his highest level. The short answer is the medication used in the joint injections most likely lessens the clinical signs rather than getting rid of OA altogether

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