Arthritis (osteoarthritis) is a term used to describe inflammation of the joints.
The healthy, normal joint contains a viscous fluid (synovial fluid) that lubricates its movement and significantly reduces friction between the cartilaginous ends of each bone. Cartilage damage is frequently seen in horses that have had years of wear and tear on joints. This eventually catches up with them later in life, leading to arthritis. Managing joint disease is a common dilemma for owners of older horses. The degree of expected usefulness of an older horse can range from simply maintaining pasture soundness to keeping the horse fit for advanced level eventing.
Ultimately, with the aid and expertise of your veterinary surgeon, you will want to:
- Control pain and inflammation
- maximize mobility and preserve soundness
- limit the advancement of disease
- encourage joint/tissue repair
How can you and your vet manage your horse?
- You may need to adjust his work routine. Regular light exercise and turn out helps stimulate joints, improving the health of cartilage and reducing fluid build up during box rest.
- Work closely with your farrier. As horses get older their hooves deteriorate and become brittle. Reluctance to move due to sore feet will make your horse stiff all over.
- Oral joint supplements are the least invasive form of treatment that can boost joint health. A more invasive form of joint supplement is steroid or nutrient injections into the joint which are believed to prevent further damage.
- Maintain a good, well balanced diet for overall optimal health. Excess body weight should be lost, to help reduce the strain on joints.