Most horse owners are already aware that osteoarthritis (OA) is one of the most important health-related problems for horses. The condition limits a horse’s athleticism and can, like any chronically painful condition, negatively impact a horse’s quality of life. Researchers estimate that this disease is the single most important cause of lameness in horses and that 60% of lameness problems are related to OA. Millions of horses are affected by OA, and costs associated with diagnosing and treating it can be as high as $15,000 per horse per year (TheHorse.com/14841).
While there is no cure for OA, treatment options abound. Two types or classes of medical treatments for OA-affected horses exist. One is called "symptomatic" and the other type is "disease-modifying." Symptomatic treatments for OA reduce clinical signs (e.g., heat, pain, lameness, swelling), helping the horse feel more comfortable and move easier. These symptomatic treatments, such as the anti-inflammatory drug phenylbutazone (Bute), however, do not stop the disease from progressing.
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