Joint Supplements and Equine Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a common cause of lameness. Could a joint supplement help affected horses? Maybe, says one researcher.
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Joint Supplements and Equine Osteoarthritis
Many owners and trainers use oral supplements to help reduce or prevent joint issues in their performance horses. While some might effectively promote joint health, others could have little to no effect. | Photo: The Horse Staff
Running quickly might come naturally for Thoroughbreds, but even the best and most successful equine athletes can face aches and pains associated with osteoarthritis (OA) from time to time. Drug and medication rules prevent trainers and veterinarians from administering certain prescriptions within a certain time frame of a race, in part to keep the horse from competing while injured, but what about joint supplements? Could they help racehorses stay healthy, comfortable, and even prevent joint disease from developing in the first place?

At the seventh Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit, held June 28 at the Keeneland Race Course, in Lexington, Kentucky, C. Wayne McIlwraith, BVSc, PhD, DSc, FRCVS, Dipl. ACVS, ACVSMR, reviewed nutraceuticals, their common uses, and the ingredients advertised to promote equine joint health. McIlwraith is a Colorado State University (CSU) Distinguished Professor in Orthopaedics, Barbara Cox Anthony University Chair in Orthopaedic Research, and founding director of CSU’s Orthopaedic Research Center.

McIlwraith said OA is the most common cause of equine lameness and affects millions of horses in the United States.

As such, “oral joint supplements are a common choice of clients and have been perceived as a benign treatment for OA in horses,” he said. “The high prevalence of OA, combined with the lack of a definitive cure for OA, has probably contributed to the popularity of oral joint supplements

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Erica Larson, former news editor for The Horse, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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