Horse Health

Daily Joint Health

April 7, 2011

Keep your show horse’s joints healthy with daily care.

From AQHA Corporate Partner Adequan

“I know many horses have been retired early from their performance careers due to joint health issues that may have been avoided with daily checking and early treatment,” says Dr. Victoria Maxwell as she does a lameness exam on a young horse in training. Adequan photo.

Preventing lameness is the best policy for performance horses. Although that may not always be possible, Dr. Alan Donnell of Equine Sports Medicine in Pilot Point, Texas, recommends several management practices to maintain healthy joints and sound horses.

Solid farrier work
Solid farrier work is important to keep horses’ hooves balanced and the shoes fitting correctly. Regardless of the riding discipline, the angles and the lateral balance affect the joints all the way up.

Daily prevention
The second management practice is the use of Adequan i.m. (polysulfated glycosaminoglycan) to keep the joints’ wear-and-repair cycle in healthy balance.

“We recommend the use of Adequan i.m. whenever the slightest symptoms of joint soreness are observed,” says Dr. Donnell. “To obtain sound, healthy joints, Adequan i.m. is an integral part of our treatment regimen with the use of an FDA-approved hyaluronic acid product. Adequan i.m. is the only FDA-approved intramuscular therapy. It’s the best there is.”

Osteochondritis dissecans causes more than just normal “growth pains” in young horses. This condition actually occurs when the bone and cartilage in the joints of a young horse form incorrectly, causing the cartilage at the end of the bone to separate. Read more about it in AQHA’s FREE Young Horse Joint Health report.

For horses being shown regularly, Dr. Donnell prescribes treatment with Adequan i.m. when joint symptoms indicate the need. “During show season, I recommend the loading dose, which is a treatment every four days for a total of seven shots, then retreating as needed,” he says. “The use of Adequan i.m. early, when soreness or joint dysfunction is first observed, is much cheaper than treating a lame horse, and you don’t lose any training time or cut into your horse-show budget. The economic impact of lameness is much greater than the cost of maintaining joint health.”

Proper exercise and training
The third joint health practice is a common sense approach to exercise and training. As with many practitioners, Dr. Donnell prescribes regular exercise, although he prefers that horses not be overworked. He also recommends wrapping legs and checking them after riding.

“Wrapping those legs up for protection is important, especially if you happen to ride horses too hard,” he says. “And if you have ridden a horse too hard, give him an anti-inflammatory to keep the inflammation down.”

Nutrition
The fourth management practice is to adopt a nutrition package that’s well-balanced with trace minerals to support the physiology of the animal and to help maintain joint health, Dr. Donnell says.

Roll It!

Dr. Tom Lenz gives advice on how to prevent and treat tendonitis.

When asked about joint health, Dr. Victoria Maxwell, technical veterinarian for Luitpold Pharmaceuticals, offers these tips:

Check joints daily. Agreeing with Dr. Donnell, Dr. Maxwell explains that even during routine exercise, the balanced wear-and-repair of your horse’s joints can be disrupted. She says that early signs are subtle, so legs should be checked every ride for joint swelling or heat. Also, riders and trainers should watch for any hesitation to perform.

Treat early. Both Drs. Donnell and Maxwell work to prolong the life of the performance horse by detecting and treating joint dysfunction before cartilage or bone damage occurs. They recommend calling your veterinarian at the first sign of any joint dysfunction to understand the most effective and economical treatment for joint disease. An inflamed joint is the early stage of DJD when destructive enzymes attack the synovial fluid and cartilage. This breaks down the lubricating and nourishing functions, while eroded cartilage allows damage to the subchondral bone, causing pain and less shock absorption. The health of the cartilage is critical to the performance of the joint.

Reverse joint damage. When the joint is dysfunctional, treatment with Adequan i.m. (polysulfated glycosaminoglycan) can nearly double the hyaluronic acid in the synovial fluid and stimulate cartilage repair. Dr. Maxwell explains, “This is the only FDA-approved disease modifying osteoarthritic drug available for equine joints. It has been scientifically proven, and more than 80 equine trials have been published from around the world.”

Dr. Gary White from Sallisaw Equine Clinic in Oklahoma says, “The parameters veterinarians, trainers and horse owners are looking for in joint therapy include stride length, knee flexion and lameness score.”

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He conducted a randomized, blinded positive-controlled study with Adequan i.m. intramuscular injections given every four days for seven treatments. The Adequan i.m.-treated horses showed the following results:

  • Stride length, 98 percent improvement
  • Knee flexion, 95 percent improvement
  • Lameness score, 88 percent improvement

Recent confusion in the marketplace has led people to believe that there are generic and FDA-approved equivalents of Adequan i.m., Dr. White says. “But there are no FDA-approved forms of generic Adequan i.m. The FDA approval process is demanding and designed to protect you, your horse and your finances from unproven and unsafe products,” he adds.

Including joints in the daily care regime will help keep horses’ joints in healthy balance to help keep your horse in the show pen.

For more information about joint health, review the short video or joint health program on Adequan.com.

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