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Horse joints: supporting them and limiting osteoarthritis Logo PaskaCheval

By making the bones communicate with each other, through the combination of ligaments, cartilage and synovial fluid, the joints play a key role in the horse's movements. Only in this case, osteoarthritis has a negative impact on the mechanics. Osteoarthritis is a very common joint disease, especially in older horses. It has several causes and several effects.

What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis (or degenerative joint disease) is a deterioration of the horse's articular cartilage. It primarily affects the joints of the limbs (fetlock, hock, hoof) and back. It is a progressive disease that gradually becomes worse. Once the vicious circle sets in, there is a risk that the cartilage and joint may gradually become weaker over time. Although it often occurs at an advanced age or in athletic horses as a result of natural joint ageing. Osteoarthritis may have several underlying causes such as loss of balance, unnecessary physical strain, or even past trauma.

What are the risks related to osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis causes cartilage degradation, inflammation and risks of cracks. It gradually weakens joint bone ends and may therefore have a broader effect on the horse's locomotor system in the long term. This is why osteoarthritis in horses generally results in stiffness or even lameness when cold, as well as heat and swelling in the inflamed joint. Veterinarians will perform imaging examinations, with x-rays and ultrasounds to confirm these symptoms.

How can we treat osteoarthritis and support the joints?

Treatment will vary depending on the degree of osteoarthritis and its stage of development. One of the first things that comes to mind in adapting the horseshoe by using orthopaedic shoes, with a rolled design and shock absorption, as they will enable better movement while relieving pain. Generally, veterinarians also prescribe an anti-inflammatory treatment or even infiltrations along with horseshoeing. Treatments with Harpagophytum may also be recommended to reduce joint pain. 

Bent horse leg

The work a horse performs must be adapted to what it can tolerate and must be managed reasonably (in particular, hard ground must be avoided). The horse should not completely stop working as it must stay in good physical shape. Supporting the joints also means ensuring a good diet. A balanced diet is key. Deficiencies can increase the risk of poor bone or joint growth and their deterioration.

Due to the progressive nature of osteoarthritis, it is strongly recommended to act early so as to preserve the joints and limit cartilage degradation over the course of months and years. Elderly horses and athletic horses in particular, whose mechanics are particularly subject to stress, will benefit from being given supplements. How? By using food supplements designed to support the cartilage and ensure joint suppleness.

Paskaflex is an innovative compound based on chondoprotective nutrients (glucosamine, chondroitin and MethylSulfonylMethane) which help support cartilage and improve mineralisation. Find it at your nearest distributor.

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