Equine arthritis – technically termed osteoarthritis – can be attributed to approximately 60% of equine lameness cases, according to The Horse.com. And, while most horse owners maintain the ideal that only the older, possibly harder-worked horses will end up with osteoarthritis, the truth is that just about any horse can be diagnosed with this degenerative joint disease at any age. The good news is that there are new treatments for equine osteoarthritis being studied and tested, and some are natural therapies.
What to Expect Out of Treatment
By the time osteoarthritis has been diagnosed, there is significant damage to a horse’s joints, due to either abnormal pressure on cartilage that was normal or by normal pressure on cartilage that is already damaged. Treatment should essentially prevent the further damage and loss of the horse’s cartilage, as well as minimize pain and discomfort for the patient. When considering which therapies to use for a horse that exhibits early joint disease or has progressed to osteoarthritis, it is vital to understand where the inflammation began.
NSAIDS – Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as Bute and Banamine, have been used for a long time to treat osteoarthritis in horses. Unfortunately, just like the side effects that humans experience with NSAIDS, young foals and ponies, as well as adults on larger doses tend to experience side effects with the original COX inhibitors. Recently, COX 2 inhibitors (such as Equioxx) have come along, reducing the potential side effects.
Aquatic Therapy – Colorado State University is currently studying how underwater treadmills affect osteoarthritis as a natural treatment. They mention that there are not enough studies yet to support aquatic therapy as a potential osteoarthritis answer, but they are working to come up with some definitive research to prove or disprove this therapy.
Gene Therapy – Nature Publishing Group reported on a study about gene therapy for equine osteoarthritis. The study mentions that while gene therapy has been around for a while now, clinical evidence of the efficacy of this treatment barely exists. The study revealed that significant improvement in clinical pain was observed in the treated horses, in comparison to the untreated horses. However, when comparing the joints between the treated and untreated horses, there was not a significant difference in the joints affected with OA.
Curcumin – Curcumin is the active constituent of the spice, turmeric, and was featured in the 2009 Spring edition of the Journal American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association as a new, natural therapy for equine osteoarthritis. This ingredient has been used in human trials to downregulate inflammatory mediators, and is now being studied as a potential therapy for equine OA. The proprietary formula included Vitamin C and E, as well.
While there is always room for more studies regarding equine osteoarthritis treatments, there are certainly more and more treatments being evaluated as veterinary medicine improves. Fortunately, we have many different, viable options for our osteoarthritis horses today than we did even just a decade ago. As the current studies continue, we expect to see more potential equine osteoarthritis treatments being introduced.