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How to treat arthritis in horses

Scottie in the field. treat arthritis in horses

Unfortunately there is no cure for arthritis. Once the damage is done to the affected joint, it will always be there and will get progressively worse. But you can manage and treat arthritis in horses to make them more comfortable and slow down the progression.

Treating the symptoms of arthritis

One of the most common ways to treat arthritis in horses is to treat the symptoms. By giving the horse pain reflief and anti-inflamitories you can make them more comfortable by easing the symptoms associated with arthritis.

Oral Medication

A common and non intrusive option is non steroidal drugs such as bute (phenylbutazone.) Depending on the servevity of the horses arthritis, the vet may recommend bute every day for the rest of their lives, or just when they have a flare up. This treatment is usually very effective and can keep the horse comfortable well into their older years.

Most vets and owners want to avoid the long term use of these drugs, especially in younger horses due to the potential risks of consuming these drugs over a long period. There is also research to suggest that they can increase the chance of developing gastric ulcers. But generally the benefit well outweighs the risk.

Joint Injections

Another common and successful treatment is injecting anti-inflammatory treatment directly into the joint. Often referred to as steroid injections, it isn’t surprising that these injections contain steroids, usually corticosteroids. Steroids are highly effective anti-inflammatories and when injected directly into the joint they can be really effective.

Steroid injections can last from 6 months to as long as 2 years. Every horse and case is different. Injecting into the joint does have a certain level of risk involved. There is a chance of infection and even further damage to the joint. But they do have a high success rate and are a good alternative to treat arthritis in horses who might not suit oral anti inflammatories.

Muscle Injections

If you don’t want to inject into the joint, there are other options too. Anti-inflammatory drugs such as cartrophen can be injected into the muscle, similar to vaccines. These drugs help remove the inflammation in joints but can also increase the production of joint fluid and can help keep cartilage health. These injections are often less effective on single joints and need more regular boosters. But they target all joints in the body, not just one.

Supporting the cartilage to slow the progression of arthritis

Usually used alongside steroid injections, there are other substances you can inject into the joint to help make the horse more comfortable and even slow the progression of arthritis. These injections usually help lubricate the joint, to help prevent and slow further damage to the joint. They usually mimic joint fluid to help with mobility or cause a cushioning effect.

Last Updated on 25/03/2022

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