Both the equine practitioner and the horse owner have been barraged with a number of new treatments for arthritis in joint injury, a common problem to anyone who owns horses. Some, such as Adequan and hyaluronic acid, have been around for a while. However, more recently an intravenous formulation of hyaluronic acid has come on the market and a number of oral glycosaminoglycan products, including Synoflex, Flex-Free, Cosequin and most recently shark cartilage, are now available. All of the products may have marked beneficial effects, but in a number of instances, these have not been characterized scientifically yet.
Correctly known as polysulfated glycosaminoglycan, this product was initially licensed for intra-articular use. Controlled experiments showed that the drug used in this fashion was effective in reducing the development of osteoarthritis in chronically diseased joints. We have also found it to be a useful treatment after joint surgery when there is significant loss of articular cartilage. However, because of a slight tendency to reduce resistance to infection, antibiotics need to be given when the drug is used intra-articularly. The drug is now used most frequently in an intramuscular fashion. Effectiveness by this route has not been demonstrated as well in controlled experiments; but clinically most veterinarians recognize effects that are similar to the intra-articular route.
This drug is a naturally occuring substance in the joint and has been used intra-articularly for nearly 20 years. There is now an intravenous preparation called