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Understanding Neutraceuticals: equine joint supplements explained

Nutraceuticals are complementary medicines of natural origin claimed to have a medicinal effect on health. Usually obtained from a food source, they are sold as isolated, purified components in pharmacological doses for specific ailments. More rigorously, nutraceutical implies that the extract or food is demonstrated to have a physiological benefit or provide protection against a chronic disease. Functional foods are defined as being consumed as part of a usual diet but are demonstrated to have physiological benefits and/or reduce the risk of chronic disease beyond basic nutritional functions.

Your choice of joint supplement should take into consideration the specific problem you are treating and which ingredients will best target that form of joint disease.  It is important to purchase a joint supplement specific to your horse’s needs. The range of joint supplements available is vast and the ingredients in different products vary significantly. To make the right choice you need to be informed of the way that these ingredients work. Remember, if in doubt, ask your vet.

Methylsulphonylmethane (M.S.M.)

MSM is a source of bio- available sulphur which is needed for the production of new connective tissue – the main component of things like tendons and ligaments. MSM is a co-factor of Glucosamine HCl and Chondroitin Sulphate in the repair of the cartilage matrix. MSM is also associated with the relief of inflammatory conditions.

Chondroitin Sulphate

Chondroitin is a natural ‘water magnet’ in the joint. Adequate amounts of Chondroitin Sulphate enable the joint to withstand constant compression and concussion. Chondroitin Sulphate also inhibits the ‘cartilage chewing’ enzymes that are present in damaged joints.

Glucosamine HCl

Glucosamine enhances the level of glycosaminoglycans (GAG’S) in the joint. These GAG’S are the ‘building blocks’ in the cartilage matrix. Glucosamine HCl will increase the Hyaluronate content in the joint. Hyaluronate is a fundamental component of Synovial fluid (joint lubricant).

Devils Claw

Devils claw is used as an anti-inflammatory, pain reliever, for treating arthritis. Helps to alleviate joint, ligament and tendon problems and assists in the improvement of vitality in the joints.

Shark cartilage

Shark cartilage is used in joint supplements due to the presence of chondroitin sulfate.

Perna canaliculum (green-lipped mussel)

Green lipped mussel contains glucosamine, a GAG precursor and one of the building blocks of cartilage.

Cider Vinegar

Cider Vinegar liquidizes acid crystals which harden in the joint causing stiffness and premature ageing and help to flush them out of the body. 

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is essential for all growth processes, including vision, bone remodeling in growing horses, tendon strength, and mucous membrane integrity. Vitamin A is not manufactured by the horse and therefore must come from the diet.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D deficiency depresses calcium uptake, leading to stiffness, lameness, weak bones and swollen joints.

Linoleic acid

Linoleic acid Improves suppleness and coat condition.

Cod liver oil

Cod Liver Oil contains high levels of the omega-3 fatty acids, and very high levels of vitamin A, vitamin D and vitamin E. It is widely taken to ease the symptoms of arthritis as well as other health benefits such as improving the condition of the coat.

Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C)

Vitamin C plays a role in fighting infection and may work to control inflammation which is linked to infection.


Copper is essential for bone development, joint cartilage, connective tissue and the uptake and utilization of iron.


Zinc is a mineral essential for normal bone, cartilage and hoof development.