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Joint Supplements as Proactive Maintenance

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! Although there have been many studies demonstrating the safety and bioavailability of joint supplements in horses and other species, up to now most have relied on adult horses with pre-existing soundness conditions to demonstrate positive effects. However, a study just published in 2016 was able to demonstrate benefits of daily joint supplement administration to yearling horses prior to the development of joint problems: Leatherwood JL, Gehl KL, Coverdale JA, et al. Influence of oral glucosamine supplementation in young horses challenged with intra-articular lipopolysaccharide. Journal of Animal Science 2016 94:8294-3302

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 support cartilage, synovial fluid and other joint components, they are already on board.

Lydia F. Gray, DVM, MA SmartPak Staff Veterinarian and Medical Director Dr. Lydia Gray has earned a Bachelor of Science in agriculture, a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM), and a Master of Arts focusing on interpersonal and organizational communication. After “retiring” from private practice, she put her experience and education to work as the American Association of Equine Practitioner’s first-ever Director of Owner Education. Dr. Gray continues to provide health and nutrition information to horse owners through her position at SmartPak, through publication in more than a dozen general and trade publications, and through presentations around the country. She is the very proud owner of a Trakehner named Newman that she actively competes with in dressage and combined driving. In addition to memberships in the USDF and USEF, Dr. Gray is also a member of the Illinois Dressage and Combined Training Association (IDCTA). She is a USDF “L” Program Graduate and is currently working on her Bronze Medal. Find Dr. Gray on Google+

Posted in Ask the Vet, Lameness

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