Joint Supplements as Preventative Maintenance (from AAEP Ask the Vet)

I have 3 young horses (3 yo Irish Sport, 5 yo TB and 7 yo Appendix) that I use for hunter / jumper showing. Although there are no indications of joint problems now, I am concerned about the long term impact of jumping on their joints. Is it advisable to provide a joint supplement as a prophylactic measure in these young horses or wait to see if problems develop in the future before adding a joint supplement? BS

Dear BS,
I commend you for thinking ahead to the long-term welfare of what sounds like three incredible young horses! While no research has proven that oral joint supplements can prevent osteoarthritis, studies have shown that glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, hyaluronic acid and other common joint supplement ingredients may stimulate cartilage synthesis and inhibit cartilage breakdown.

One way to look at oral joint supplements is as an “insurance policy” for your horses’ lasting soundness. Arthritis develops because of wear and tear of joints over years of relatively moderate work. Of course, trauma, poor conformation and other issues can increase the rate at which the tissues in your horses’ joints break down. As a concerned horse owner, why not “stack the deck” in your horses’ favor by providing the building blocks of healthy joint tissue so that when they need these ingredients to repair cartilage, synovial fluid and other joint components, they are already on board.

Lydia Gray, DVM MA, is the Staff Veterinarian for SmartPak. Prior to joining SmartPak, Dr. Gray served as the first-ever Director of Owner Education for the American Association of Equine Practitioners. She has authored numerous articles in publications such as The Horse, Horse Illustrated, Western Horseman and a variety of veterinary journals and magazines. Dr. Gray is also a frequent speaker at horse expos, veterinary conventions and other events. After graduating with honors from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine and receiving her Master's Degree in Interpersonal and Organizational Communication, she practiced at the Tremont Veterinary Clinic for several years. Dr. Gray is active in the American Veterinary Medical Association and Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association. She enjoys training and showing her Trakehner, Newman, in both combined driving and dressage, and is a USDF “L” Program Graduate (with distinction). Find Dr. Gray on Google+

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