How to Treat Arthritis in Horses
When it comes to rescuing a horse, especially older ones, you may come across one who is suffering from arthritis. The inflammation of one or more of their joints can cause joint pain and stiffness and typically worsens with age. To date, there are more than 50 types of supplements to aid in the care of horses with arthritis. However, it’s best if you understand when the joint issues began, how it began, and what you can do to manage arthritis.
Knowing if Your Horse has Arthritis
There are many reasons why a rescue horse may be suffering from arthritis. This could be due to years of neglect, especially if they were kept in a small space with little to no exercise, or from years of over exercise.
Arthritis is caused by the wear and tear of the cartilage and occurs mostly in the weight-bearing joints of the legs and hooves. Most rescue horses that were used for racing, jumping, dressage, or other high impact sports are at high risk of arthritis. But with horses of all ages, even those that don’t have arthritis, they are still susceptible and taking care of their joint health is essential to a long and pain-free life.
What to Do If Your Rescue Horse Develops Arthritis
If your horse is experiencing any stiffness, difficulty moving, or is clearly in any pain, it is important to get a veterinarian’s diagnosis. In most cases, this will include imaging to examine the joints. It will be very difficult to repair cartilage in a joint that has dissolved so the sooner you get your horse to the vet the better. The vet may recommend therapies, which include injections such as lubricating fluids. Quipalazone (bute or butezone) will aid in short-term pain relief, but kidney damage can occur with long-term use.
Caring for a Horse with Arthritis
While there is no cure for arthritis, there are still some things you can do to help reduce pain for your rescue horse.
- Always be sure that the horse’s feet are well trimmed and balanced so overload doesn’t occur on a certain joint
- Cut down on any high impact sports, including jumping, running, or walking on hard terrain. These activities may over-stress the arthritic joints and cause further damage
- Continue a light exercise regimen to maintain its flexibility
- Feed your horse a veterinarian approved supplement that could help to relieve discomfort
- Include weight control as part of the treatment plan to avoid extra weight on the joints
- Use Neoprene wraps or stall bandages to warm up areas of stiffness. If your horse is experiencing symptoms of inflammation, apply gel pack ice boots or crushed ice to problem areas.
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