Simply put, arthritis in horses is inflammation in the joint. Severe, sudden joint inflammation with stiffness, heat, and pain is called acute arthritis. Long-range joint inflammation is called chronic arthritis. Osteoarthritis references a condition that involves joint cartilage progressive degeneration, bone margin enlargement, and changes within the membrane that surrounds the joint capsule. The condition is more typical in older individuals and is marked by stiffness and pain related to activity. An autoimmune condition in people, rheumatoid arthritis doesn’t tend to be an issue in horses.
Arthritis: What causes it?
Acute horse arthritis may be caused by injury or by viral or bacterial infection. Chronic arthritis often is osteoarthritis which results from the cumulative impact of daily stress and activity. Joint infections, old injuries, and years of performance and training all can cause the development of stiffness and joint pain. Hoof deformities, poor conformation, and issues with shoeing or trimming are additional contributing factors. Also, there are likely some genetic influences, as well.
The chronic kind of arthritis is what the majority of horse owners imagine as they see elderly horses moving stiffly: “How is old Ace getting along?” “Oh, he is sort of slow getting up after lying down, and he definitely is ‘off’ as he moves around; guess he has some arthritis. He is 24, you know, yet I still ride him a bit, and he’s able to throw in some great bucks on a windy, cold morning.”
Arthritis in Horses’ Legs: How Is it Diagnosed?
After obtaining a history of the issue, a vet may continue the process of diagnostics by utilizing one or more of a variety of methods that gain details about the condition of the cartilage, bones, and fluid which make up a certain joint. An exam for lameness might be fairly involved, yet the process is needed for a vet to pinpoint and treat one or more conditions when eliminating additional possibilities. While arthritis is very common in elderly horses, it may happen well before what we consider old age. It’s vital that you identify the cause of any lameness or stiffness irrespective of the horse’s age because early treatment often can permit the animal to continue a comfortable, productive career. Fast attention to minor injury or lameness also assists in minimizing unsoundness as the horse grows older.
- Watching the animal move is the typical first measure in diagnosis. The animal might be led, longed, or ridden. Mild lameness often is most easily seen as the horse is moving through a turn, working on a hard surface, or trotting.
- A hands-on exam will be able to detect tenderness, heat, and swelling. Comparing the impacted limb to its usual mate assists in pointing out any variations, which might be signs of issues in specific areas.
- A flexion test is helpful in determining what joints are painful or stiff. The vet tightly holds the horse’s leg flexed for a couple of minutes, after which the animal is instantly trotted on a solid surface. Subtle lameness oftentimes becomes more noticeable after this treatment.
- As a certain leg is identified, nerve blocks may be done that isolate the impacted joint. The vet starts by anesthetizing the lowest joints in the leg or hoof and progressing upward ‘til the lameness fades. As the animal moves sound, suspicion falls upon the latest blocked joint.
- Ultrasound, synovial fluid analysis, arthroscopy, nuclear scintigraphy, and radiography may reveal in-depth details regarding the condition of the joint capsule, cartilage, and bone. These treatments are useful in making a precise diagnosis and directing the treatment course yet might not be financially feasible or necessary in all cases.
What does the treatment include?
Early arthritis treatment for horses is very important and oftentimes has outstanding results. Most cases of inflammation and joint pain may be successfully treated using a combination of medication and rest. The vet might select from among various horse arthritis medicine options such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (Banamine and Bute) for horse joint pain relief to decrease inflammation and pain; MSM, a sulfur derivative that has anti-inflammatory properties; or injectable options such as polysulfated glycosaminoglycans or hyaluronic acid that increase viscosity of joint fluid, as well as inhibit degeneration of cartilage. Most horse owners have testified to the efficiency of products that contain chondroitin and glucosamine. Horse arthritis pain relief treatments such as chiropractic, acupuncture, and massage also have offered pain relief for horses’ arthritis. The limited studies done on some treatments and products has failed to yield solid guidelines for their use or effectiveness. A vet’s recommendations and assessment ought to be the treatment guide of arthritic horses.
What management practices will help the horse that has arthritis?
Common sense dictates a few steps which may assist an arthritic horse in staying comfortable. Prompt vet care of minor lameness sometimes can minimize joint ailments within the horse’s golden years. As hard work might be beyond the ability of horses that have chronic arthritis, stall rest oftentimes makes the issue worse. Horses that are turned out with a small circle of pasture mates are going to move around enough to eliminate a bit of stiffness. Most arthritic animals benefit from light riding or driving upon a routine basis if owners permit time for slow cooldown and warmup periods.
Offering balanced nutrition is critical, as is keeping the animal from becoming overweight, and routine farrier visits are important to minimize strain to the feet and legs, and to maintain overall horse care health.
Are new procedures being developed for pain relief for horse’s arthritis?
Several promising arthritis in horses’ treatment options are on the horizon. Researchers are currently looking at:
- Methods of interrupting the actions of chemicals that are released by diseased joints. The substances lead to inflammation and prevent cartilage repair.
- Blood analysis which detects the earliest indications of joint degeneration, permitting treatment to start before the damage progresses.
- A way to “resurface” joint cartilage with laboratory-grown or harvested tissue.
- Engineering gene sequences which may be injected into injured joints that prevent osteoarthritis development. Some of those methods have been developed in human beings or additional animals and are being adapted for horse application. Those waves of the future hold the promise of prolonging a horse’s years of use and comfort.
Benefits of CBD Oil for Horses
The USEF, on May 14, 2019, published a statement concerning using CBD for horses (cannabidiols) and their metabolites within horses, which involved the below explanation:
"The USEF Equine Drugs & Medications Rules prohibit CBD (cannabidiols), as well as their metabolites. CBD, both synthetic and natural forms, will probably impact the performance of the horse because of its reported anxiolytic effects. The substance isn’t any different than legit therapeutics which affect behavior and mentation in horses. It’s for those reasons that USEF prohibits CBD, as well as all associated cannabinoids. Horses that are competing under USEF regulations that test positive for synthetic cannabinoids, natural cannabinoids, and additional cannabimimetics are considered in violation of GR4 starting September 1st, 2019.”
Read the complete statement here and keep on scrolling for more must-know details about CBD for horses.
CBD, hemp, and marijuana — cannabis consistently is becoming incorporated into our daily lives. New findings and research are offering the benefits of this adaptable kind of plant, causing heated debates on legalization and regulation. From recreational to medical uses, cannabis has been used by human beings for centuries. However, what about horses?
To clear up any confusion, let us break down precisely what we are talking about. Firstly, marijuana and hemp aren’t the same things. While oftentimes mistakenly interchangeably used, those terms refer to two different plants. Both marijuana and hemp are part of the Cannabis family; however, they have various uses and ways of cultivation which easily get mixed up. Plus, there’s one main difference between them: one gets you “high” and the other will not.
Hemp has been gaining in popularity as a nutraceutical utilized to alleviate symptoms like anxiety and pain.
Marijuana has high THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) levels (psychoactive constituent that is responsible for psychological effects) giving users that sense of being “high”. On the other hand, hemp has very low THC levels. Although useless as recreational drugs, industrial hemp is very versatile. Various parts of the plant may be utilized to make a broad array of products from paper to textiles, food, concrete, and fuel. Hemp, more recently, has been gaining in popularity as a nutraceutical utilized to alleviate symptoms like anxiety and pain. You might’ve also heard about the product that’s typically named hemp oil or CBD oil. That is what we are discussing today.
CBD (Cannabidiol) is a compound taken from hemp with a similar chemical composition as THC. The main difference is CBD does not have the same psychoactive impact as THC. Both THC and CBD are discovered in marijuana and hemp, yet the THC levels in hemp are negligible. Marijuana’s legality still is a messy business at the state and federal level, yet CBD oil that comes from industrial hemp is thought to be a food supplement and broadly available. The laws concerning marijuana-derived CBD oil, as well as industrial hemp-derived CBD oil differ by state.
However, what is all the fuss regarding CBD products? Like additional products within the essential oil family, CBD has proven to be advantageous in assisting with a broad array of ailments both in animals and in humans. Research has shown that the use of these oils will help with stress, inflammation, and pain by rapidly suppressing pain signals, increasing immune functions, as well as enriching natural occurring cells within the body.
KER (Kentucky Equine Research) scientists are continuing to assess CBD trends, as well as their effects. Within an excerpt from their website, Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., equine nutritionist states, “Hemp is fast-growing and hardy, and may be harvested for commercial and industrial products like clothes, rope, textiles, paper, biofuel, and plastics. For horses, the main hemp uses involve oil and bedding taken from hemp seeds. Hemp oil has Omega-3 fatty acids, which are well-known for their health advantages. Also, the nervous system of both immature and mature horses benefits from Omega-3’s, as supplementation reduces stress, improves cognition and learning, as well as staves off stereotypic behavior development, like cribbing.”
Sounds fantastic, yet CBD supplements have quickly burst onto the scene, the excitement that surrounds the product has not permitted sufficient time for the science to actually catch up. Scientists are just starting to test the long-range impact on horses; therefore, we cannot fully know all of the side effects and possible dangers as it’ll come to our pets.
"CBD products have recently been pushed to users as being highly effective in horses in order to treat various medical ailments from analgesia to behavior,” says Dr. Kent Allen, DVM, a lead vet with Virginia Equine Imaging. In conjunction with his job at his clinic, he additionally serves USEF Veterinary Committee Chairman and USEF Equine Drugs & Medications Committee, plus he’s the FEI Vet Committee Deputy Chair.
He adds that even if some of those claims hold some validity, the research is lacking. In the United States, hemp product production isn’t regulated, and efficacy claims aren’t FDA evaluated. CBD oil and associated products are prohibited by the USEF and FEI. ... the use of those products in horses is performed at the users’ own risk.
In horses, the main hemp uses involve oil and bedding taken from hemp seeds.
With various processes, the United States has substantially varying regulations than our neighbors to the north. Although broadly available in both countries, the usage of cannabis products inside Canada is a lot more lenient with the country legalizing marijuana’s recreational use on October 17th, 2018. Warren Byrne runs the Canadian-based equestrian and acing consulting company, The Horse Agency, with various clients through the racing and horse show world. He cautions against the use of buying non-prescription CBD supplements.
Warren adds that those presently being marketed are designed of industrial hemp and oftentimes contain toxins and questionable CBD levels. He says there haven’t been any clinical trials on horses for dosing. All the research states that it ought to work the same as on human beings yet the capability of manufacturing high-quality product and do any type of testing is almost impossible because of federal laws. Auburn University and Colorado State University are performing clinical trials on canines which are funded by cannabis firms.
However, for some equestrians, the risk is well worth the reward. Jackie Savoye is a Thoroughbred racehorse trainer based in Maryland. Not just does Savoye train horses, she additionally has a passion for working with younger racehorses to assist in kick-starting their careers. Savoye was searching for a tool that helps one of her nervous horse’s transition to the track. After substantial studies and consulting with various holistic care experts, she turned to CBD pellets to assist her younger horse.
Jackie adds that after using CBD products on her dog, she was thrilled to learn of the possibility of using different pellets and oils on horses. She says as a racehorse trainer there are many stresses bringing a younger horse to the track from the farm. She just ordered CBD pellets and was thrilled to start using them on her 2-year-old filly, hoping to help settle her mind and get the horse to focus, particularly while training and working in the starting gate.
While looking for commercially available CBD supplements on the internet, it became obvious that the supplements aren’t advertised with the reassuring testimonials which oftentimes accompany additional equine supplements. A Grand Prix show jumper and jumper/hunter trainer with Spirit Equestrian, Russel Morgan, was among the very few public testimonials from an expert rider that he could find on a company site. According to Morgan, what he has observed and experienced in his horses while using CBD, is it tends to have a calming feeling, less muscle fatigue, and he has noticed a decrease within the swelling of inflamed joints.
Despite its unknowns, there’s obvious support for the potential advantages of utilizing CBD oil as a supplement. Richard Nash is a Lexington, Ky-based Centaur Health CEO. He, like most, thinks CBD products for both humans and animals are a portion of the following wave in holistic care. CBD products have an array of prices, yet the average price runs from $50 to $170 for various products targeting various stress points within horse’s bodies.
According to Nash, in short, the comeback of hemp CBD use, as the product is properly manufactured and administered, offers excellent benefits to injured horses that do not have the gastrointestinal problems we experience using products like Banamine, bute, etc.
Are you interested in the use of CBD? Conduct your own research and speak with your veterinarian in order for you to make an educated choice. However, if you are an active competitor, do not forget, CBD isn’t allowed under FEI and USEF rules.
Share your thoughts! Did you ever use CBD for your horse? What resulted? What is your opinion on the FEI and USEF product bans?
Sources:MANAGEMENT OF OSTEOARTHRITIS IN THE EQUINE ATHLETE
New study is evaluating CBD use in horses
Osteoarthritis in horses
Dr. Sara Ochoa
Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, St. Georges University
Sara Redding Ochoa, DVM was raised in north Louisiana. She graduated from LA Tech in 2011 with a degree in animal science. She then moved to Grenada West Indies for veterinary school. She completed her clinical year at Louisiana State University and graduated in 2015 from St. George’s University. Since veterinary school she has been working at a small animal and exotic veterinary clinic in east Texas, where she has experience treating all species that walk in the hospital. In her free time, she likes to travel with her husband Greg, bake yummy desserts and spend time with her 4-legged fur kids, a dog Ruby, a cat Oliver James “OJ”, a rabbit BamBam and a tortoise MonkeyMan.
Thanks for stopping by!
P.S. We Love You!
The Innovet Team
Please do not ask for emergency or specific medical questions about your pets in the comments. Innovet Pet Products is unable to provide you with specific medical advice or counseling. A detailed physical exam, patient history, and an established veterinarian are required to provide specific medical advice. If you are worried that your pet requires emergency attention or if you have specific medical questions related to your pet’s current or chronic health conditions, please contact or visit your local/preferred veterinarian, an animal-specific poison control hotline, or your local emergency veterinary care center.
Please share your experiences and stories, your opinions and feedback about this blog, or what you've learned that you'd like to share with others.