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Best Supplements and Exercise for Horse with OCD

I have a five year old Belgian mare that has some ocd in her hocks. She also had a bone chip in her pastern as a weanling. The chip was removed and the joint cleaned up in surgery. I am now riding this mare both trails and western pleasure. She has been on joint supplements with HA since her surgery at 4 months. What else can I do to keep her sound? I know sometimes her hocks seem a little weak. Is the work best for the ocd or should it just be light work. I try to keep her fairly fit. She is about 2000 pounds and I try to keep her weight down also. How much HA should she get? Is that the best way to treat her OCD?

MB, Washington

Dear MB,

First let me explain what OCD is, then address appropriate supplements, workload, and diet. OCD stands for osteochondritis dissecans and is a type of growth disorder in horses that falls under the general heading Developmental Orthopedic Disease or DOD. Basically OCD is a problem in the way cartilage matures into bone. Some use the term osteochrondrosis (OC) interchangeably with osteochondritis dissecans but OCD is the more advanced form of the disease, where abnormal joint cartilage actually develops cracks and fissures. If this abnormal tissue becomes loose in the joint, like with your horse, then it’s termed a bone chip .

You were right on track supplementing with hyaluronic acid (HA) after her surgery. A study performed by the surgeons at Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, KY, demonstrated reduced joint swelling following the removal of OCD chips from the hocks of young thoroughbreds given 100mg of HA orally. That’s because hyaluronic acid blocks inflammatory reactions, protecting cells in the joint. It’s an excellent choice for acute situations like surgery and flare-ups of chronic joint conditions. It certainly wouldn’t hurt to keep your mare on it.

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I hope the joint supplement you’re giving her also contains glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, two ingredients that inhibit the free radicals and enzymes that lead to breakdown of cartilage while also supplying the building blocks of new, healthy tissue. MSM is also a good idea, as it has recently been shown to have a protective effect on exercise-induced oxidative stress and inflammation of tissues in the horse.

It sounds like she’s already on the heavy side, and I’m sure you know that keeping her at a body condition score of 5 (between 1 = emaciated and 9 = obese) will be better for her joints and other tissues. Since pasture is probably not on her menu then, supply Omega 3 fatty acids with supplements that contain flax seed, fish oil, or other sources of this healthy fat that fights inflammation and benefits cellular health. You probably don’t feed her grain either, so make sure she gets her full ration of nutrients with a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement or ration balancer.

Now that we’ve got her nutrition and supplements covered, what about exercise? Not having seen her X-rays or her joints directly during surgery, I’m going to “turf” that question back to your local veterinarian and referring surgeon. I will just point out that she will benefit from as much turnout and as little stall time as possible, from long and gentle warm-ups and cool-downs, and from regular, consistent exercise rather than sporadic work.

[Ed. note: from the AAEP Ask a Vet]

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+

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4 comments on “Best Supplements and Exercise for Horse with OCD
  1. Jim Nichols says:

    I’ve been diagnosed with arthritis and bone loss in my left knee. I have eliminated any and all pain and stiffness with 10 grams daily, each of MSM and Omega 3. Omega 6 & 9 cancel out Omega 3, so be sure you calculate the net amount of Omega 3 for you or your horse. Platinum Plus provides approx. 19 grams in each daily dose. My calcs indicate that this is approx. the deficit in dry hays or alfalfa. Neither glucosamine or chondroitin have ever helped my symptoms; results of studies and trials in humans are mixed. I spend my money for my cutting horses on MSM and Omega 3. I don’t understand why anyone feeds horses grain; only birds have croups, which enable them to properly digest grain.

  2. Lauri says:

    I recently purchased an 8 year old arab cross. About 3 days after I got him home he develpoed sweeling in his right hock. I thought my other mare kicked hime so treated it as such with DMSO with & without cortisone. Also tried glycerin & alchohol & a green epsom poltice. Finally I had xrays doen only to find out that he has OCD w/lesions. I have been giving him cortaflex and feeding kalm ultra from tribute.1/2 cup 2x’s daily. I read no calcium so i am stopping the THia-cal supplement. I do not have the money for surgery. I saddens me that the man who sold him to me probably had his joint injected then got rid of him asap. He is a very sweet horse & have grown to adore him. What feed if any other do you reccommend? He doesnt limp but has a slight hitch. He is always in pasture what else can i be doing to make him comfortable and rideable? I am considering giving him to an Equine rescue league as my finances will not allow anything major and he is sucha doll I do not want to sell him @ an auction…any suggestions?

    • SmartPak SmartPak says:

      Hi Lauri, thanks for your questions. We are so sorry to hear about your horse’s injury. Unfortunately it sounds like he does require surgery to treat his OCD, which supplements and feed are not a substitute for. You may want to check with the local veterinary hospitals in your area to determine if they offer any type of discounts or financing programs. We wish your horse a quick and safe recovery.

  3. BWebb says:

    Hi I have a 5yr american paint mare who I have ownwed since 2 yrs old. I have been told after lameness issues first identified as nothing that she has ocd of the stifles because of the misdiagnosis i have lost the window to have surgery done under my Insurance. Like the last person I am considering what my horses options now are. She has had cortisone injections into both stifles but I donot think it has made much difference what else can I do to give her a future.

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