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12 FAQs about guidelines for the use of equine joint supplements

1.     Why use joint supplements?

Arthritis is a significant problem in older horses although it can occur at any age. The most common form of joint disease in horses is osteoarthritis (OA), characterized by the degeneration of cartilage and the formation of new bone at the joint margins. Most cases of OA in horses occur in association with some predisposing joint disease or injury within the joint that produces areas of increased stress which eventually result in cartilage erosion and exposure of the underlying bone.

Clinically, most horses with OA ultimately present with stiffness or lameness, although structural damage may exist for some time before signs are apparent. Lameness is due to a combination of joint pain and restricted movement of the joint and may be gradual in onset or may present acutely following some minor trauma or excessive exercise. Joint supplements can prevent the onset of joint diseases and improve mobility and flexibility to horses suffering with it.

2.     How do glucosamine and chondroitin work in equine joint supplements?

Glucosamine is the building block of cartilage formation. It therefore helps to rehabilitate cartilage and reduce the progress of equine arthritis whilst reducing the pain and increasing the mobility of the horse in question.  The glucosamine is rapidly taken up by the cartilage cells and helps stimulate the synthesis of joint fluid and cartilage.  Glucosamine is very safe with no known side effects.

Chondroitin is also one of the products necessary for the production of cartilage. Chondroitin is sourced from sharks and is the major glycosaminoglycan found in cartilage, it also slows down the production of enzymes that are destructive to the horse’s joint.  Chondroitin is added to glucosamine because these two compounds work together to repair cartilage and are more effective when used together than when either compound is used alone.

3.     How long should my horse take joint supplements for?

Most horses will benefit from taking mobility supplements for the rest of their lives once they have started (if the supplement has had a positive effect on increasing mobility and flexibility). Studies have shown that cartilage degeneration will start to reoccur about four to six months after the product is discontinued. The only exception to this is young horses that have been placed on a supplement for 3 months or so following a joint surgery or injury. Once the product has provided support for 6-8 weeks, the dose can often be reduced.

4.     Do horse joint care supplements have any known side effects?

Glucosamine & Chondroitin are naturally sourced and rarely show any side effects. The safety of joint supplements makes them well suited for long term use.

5.     Can I give my horse joint supplements along with painkillers?

You should always seek advice from your veterinarian prior to administering any combination of supplements and medication. Your vet may recommend that your horse is given both a joint supplement and an anti-inflammatory pain reliever.

6.     How are horse joint products different from human joint supplements?

Equine joint products are made specifically to make it easy to administer the correct dose to horses (a much larger dose than would be required for humans!) and are often flavoured to make them more palatable. They also come in granules, with MSM, that can be mixed with food. It is not advisable to feed human joint supplements to horses as their lower strength makes giving the correct dose difficult, always ask your vet for advice if unsure.

7.     What is the difference between glucosamine (HCl) and glucosamine sulphate?

Glucosamine hydrochloride (HCl) and glucosamine sulfate both work equally well in the horse. The HCl form has become more popular because it is purer, provides more available glucosamine per unit weight and contains much less residual ash.

8.     What are green lipped mussels?

Perna Canaliculus, or green-lipped mussel are an edible shellfish found off the shores of New Zealand. The soft tissue is separated from the shell, washed several times, frozen, and freeze-dried. It is then processed into a fine powder and added to joint supplement products. It contains glucosamine, glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) which are also building blocks of cartilage and a type of omega-3 fatty acid.

9.     What is Creatine and is it beneficial for horses suffering from joint disease?

Creatine is modified by the body to serve as a storage reservoir for quick energy. It helps build lean body mass by enabling the muscle to work longer. It is the increase in exercise that results in building muscle, not the creatine alone. When combined with exercise, it may be helpful in horses that are losing muscle.

10.  What is MSM and how is it useful?

MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane) is a natural, organic source of Sulphur, an essential element found in the horses body and needed every day for healthy joints and tissues. Sulphur is the fourth most abundant mineral in the horse’s body after calcium, phosphorus and potassium. It is an essential mineral to support the integrity of connective tissue including skin and cartilage.

11.   What is Manganese?

Manganese is a trace mineral needed for healthy bones. The horse’s body uses Manganese to help manufacture enzymes necessary for the growth, repair and development of cartilage tissue. Manganese also acts an antioxidant and crucial component of Super Oxide Dismutase (SOD), an antioxidant that helps reduce free radical damage.

12.   What is Vitamin C used for?

Vitamin C is an important nutrient needed to maintain connective tissue and collagen, the major component of blood vessels, skin, tendons, joint cartilage and teeth. It is also a powerful antioxidant that helps protects cells from free radical damage, which is linked to osteoarthritis and other chronic disease states where considerable free radical damage results from long-term inflammation. It is therefore important to support the horse’s body with antioxidants during long-term inflammation.