Arthritis and Degenerative Joint Disease

older horse laying down
Arthritis has several names — degenerative joint disease, osteoarthritis — but, whatever you call it, your horse has stiff and painful joints. This common chronic condition often affects older horses, as the cartilage around their joints deteriorates, especially around their knees, coffins, fetlocks, hocks and pasterns. Arthritis often causes lameness.

Causes

Joint trauma is the leading cause of arthritis. This can mean the repetitive stress of years of hard work. Infected wounds can cause an acute type of degenerative joint disease called septic arthritis.

Symptoms

The most common symptoms of arthritis are swollen joints, stiffness, uneven gait, shortened stride and lameness. Your horse may be unable or unwilling to keep up with your demands. Jumpers may no longer want to stop or turn.

Diagnosis

Veterinarians diagnose the presence and degree of arthritis by physical exam, lameness exam and X-rays.

Treatment

Arthritis is not curable, but people manage the disease in many ways, depending on its severity.

Medications and supplements, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, glucosamine or hyaluronic acid, may be used to manage arthritis. Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, may help decrease joint inflammation. Injecting stem cells directly into affected joints is a newer technology that some veterinarians offer.

Some researchers are investigating alternative management methods, such as aquatic therapy. Scientists at Colorado State University have studied the effects of having horses walk on an underwater treadmill.

Even if your horse is too stiff or lame to ride, it still needs exercise. Too much stall rest will only make joints stiffer. Keep your horse moving, so his joints remain mobile. Let your horse roam in a pasture, determining its own pace. However, make sure your arthritic horse is not being bullied or chased by the rest of the herd. Quiet companions are best for the arthritic horse.

Keep your horse’s hooves trimmed. When a horse’s feet get too long, the odds of twisting and torqueing the joints increase. Also, think about what your horse is standing on. Appropriate footing provides cushioning but is not too soft. Avoid activity on hard surfaces that will add joint stress. Also avoid steep, uneven and rocky terrain.

Watch your horse’s weight. Less activity generally means a higher weight, and more pounds means more joint stress.

If your horse seems stiff, call us today. After a thorough examination, we can recommend the best treatment methods to make your horse comfortable and an appropriate diet plan to meet your horse’s caloric needs.

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Colorado Springs Office

Monday:

8:30 am-5:00 pm

Tuesday:

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Wednesday:

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Thursday:

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Available for emergencies 24/7

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Testimonials

Read What Our Clients Say

  • "I've been using Dr. Andersen as my equine vet for almost 3 years. She is smart and professional, and always has my horses' (and my) best interest in mind. She thoroughly evaluates each animal and takes the time to explain treatment options. She is also an outstanding chiropractor; my good barrel horse Danny loves her! An added bonus to the practice is Dr. Calvacanti. She is hard working, well educated and eager to learn. I trust my horses' health to Rocky Mountain Equine Clinic."
    Mandy M. D.
  • "I have my horse in retirement and went away to London for a week. On the second day of my trip I got the dreaded phone call that my mare was colicing. With a team effort London was trailered to Rocky Mt equine clinic. The staff was fantastic about keeping me up to date and keeping me sane. They were upfront about the situation and very supportive with my decision. They also were more then happy to allow my mares companion donkey to spend the night. THANK YOU ALL!"
    Hannah D.
  • "Dr Shiloh has been AMAZING with my mare. She has been so informative and so kind to not just me but to my baby as well. Talk about incredible patience and awesome bedside manners!! The work she’s done and her ability to explain it and do what’s best for the animal has me in awe. I am So glad she was recommended to me. I will always call her or recommend her and this clinic to anyone. Beautiful facility. Wonderful people. The best care my horse could have ever gotten."
    Chelsey W.