What You Need to Know About Equine Osteoarthritis

Experts answer common questions about this crippling condition that affects horses of all breeds, disciplines, and ages.
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Equine Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis (OA) can affect any joint where two cartilage-covered bones meet. | Photo: Kevin Thompson/The Horse

Learn more about this crippling condition that affects horses of all breeds, disciplines, and ages

You, the horse owner, asked, and we listened: Arthritis is an extremely common condition that continues to frustrate you, in terms of both short- and long-term management. Before answering some of your top questions about the latest developments in this field, let’s review the condition.

Arthritis simply means joint inflammation. In horses several types of arthritis can occur, with causes ranging from infection to age and years of athletic use. Typically, however, owners use the word arthritis in lieu of osteoarthritis—a chronic, progressive, painful degeneration of the cartilage lining the ends of long bones inside joints, as well as the underlying bone and soft tissues.

Osteoarthritis (OA), which used to be known as degenerative joint disease, can affect any joint where two cartilage-covered bones meet—called an articular joint. In sport/athletic horses we often think of OA affecting the joints in the limbs, such as hocks, knees, stifles, and fetlocks. Classic signs include heat, swelling due to excess joint fluid, lameness/pain, stiffness, deformation caused by bony changes, and ­crepitus—that popping, grinding, and crackling sound and sensation in an affected joint

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Written by:

Stacey Oke, MSc, DVM, is a practicing veterinarian and freelance medical writer and editor. She is interested in both large and small animals, as well as complementary and alternative medicine. Since 2005, she’s worked as a research consultant for nutritional supplement companies, assisted physicians and veterinarians in publishing research articles and textbooks, and written for a number of educational magazines and websites.

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