Summer Grooming For Horses Are Carrots Good For Horses? Hay Feeding Selection and Storage How Do You Know If Your Horse Is Unhealthy? Hoof Abscess Symptoms, Treatment, And Prevention Trail Riding With Your Horse A Quick Guide To Feeding Your Horse 8 Ways To Help Support Your Horse’s Joints Why Does My Horse Paw At The Ground? Prepare Your Horse For Shipping And Trailering 10 Tips To Prevent Horse Riding Accidents and Injuries Preventing Heatstroke In Horses Keep Your Horse Safe From Bees And Wasps How To Manage Stress In Horses What You Need To Know About Cracked Hooves In Horses Arthritis in Horses Fly Control Tips For Horse Owners How To Protect Your Horse From Sunburn Parasite Control For Horses How To Keep Your Horse Warm In The Winter Preventing Blanket Sores What Are The First Signs Of Strangles In Horses? What Causes Respiratory Problems In Horses? What Causes Arthritis In Horses? Tips To Keep Your Horse Calm While Trailering Horse Digestive Health Tips For Caring For Your Horse In Hot Weather 5 Common Hoof Problems In Horses How To Get Your Horse Ready For Spring What Are The Signs Of A Mare In Heat? What is EPM in Horses? Hoof Care For Horses: How To Keep Your Horse’s Hooves Healthy Tips for Preventing the Spread of Equine Diseases Winter Skin & Coat Care For Horses Can A Horse Recover From Lameness How To Condition Your Horse To Get Them In Shape 7 Common Plants That Are Poisonous To Horses How Much Should I Exercise My Horse? Colic in Horses Signs of Cushing's Disease in Horses How To Prevent Colic In Horses How To Detect And Treat Hock Or Stifle Soreness How To Get Your Horse Ready For Winter Winter Diet for Horses All About Feed Supplements Common Eye Problems in Horses Should You Keep Your Horse's Shoes On In Winter? How Long Is A Mare's Estrus Cycle? What’s The Most Common Disease In Horses? Healthy Treats For Horses Elder Horse Care Tips For Your Horse’s Golden Years How Can I Exercise My Horse Without Riding? Thrush Protection In The Winter Respiratory Health Tips For Horses
Addison's Disease Allergies Anal Sac Inflammation Anxiety Arthritis Asthma Behavior Coronavirus Bladder Stones Cancer Congestive Heart Failure Corneal Ulcers Coughing Cushing's Disease Dental Diabetes Diarrhea Digestive Distemper Dry Eye Ear Infections Ear Mites Fatty Tumors Feline Leukemia First Aid Fleas and Ticks Fungal Diseases Glaucoma Hair Loss Heartworm Disease Hip Dysplasia Horse Horse Lameness Horse Ulcers Hot Spots Hyperthyroidism Hypothyroidism Inflammatory Bowel Disease Joints Kennel Cough Kidney Disease Kidney Stones Kitten Limping Liver Disease Lyme Disease Lymphoma Mange Medication Miscellaneous Motion Sickness Nutrition Pain Parvovirus Poisoning Puppy Rabies Seasons Holistic Senior Pets Separation Anxiety Skin and Coat Submissive Urination Supplements Unexplained or Unhealthy Weight Urinary Tract Vaccine Reaction Vomiting Worms See All A-Z

Arthritis in Horses

Close up of veterinarian holding a horse's arthritic leg

Does your horse seem stiff? Does their gait seem uneven, and are they reluctant to do activities that once came naturally?

It might be arthritis, which is responsible for up to 60% of all lameness in horses.

Though most often seen in horses over age 15 due to normal wear and tear, arthritis can affect horses of any age, breed, and activity level.

Why Does My Horse Have Arthritis?

Arthritis is not a disease. It's a general term that describes joint inflammation, which can be due to several underlying causes.

Degenerative joint disease (DJD), also known as osteoarthritis, the gradual deterioration of the cartilage in your horse's joints, is typically caused by old age. Though it can't be cured, the progression can be slowed down, and your horse's symptoms can be managed so they may live comfortably and even continue to be ridden after diagnosis.

Traumatic arthritis is caused by an injury near or at the joint, such as a sprain, meniscal tear, or even consistent stress from riding. This is more common in athletic horses, and can occur before their senior years. If the underlying injury is discovered and treated early, you can prevent further damage to the joint.

Septic arthritis is inflammation around the joint caused by an infection. In foals, it's typically caused by bacteria that have traveled through the bloodstream from another part of the body. Septic arthritis can also occur through the invasion of bacteria through a wound near the affected joint. It can be life-threatening and difficult to treat as it progresses, so it's crucial that you have your horse treated as soon as possible.

Diagnosis For Horses With Arthritis

Even if you're pretty sure that your horse has arthritis, you'll need to work with your vet to find out exactly which joints are affected, how their condition has progressed, and what your treatment options might be.

Your vet will typically begin to diagnose your horse by observing their gait.

Then, they may conduct a hands-on physical examination to check for swelling, warmth, and tenderness at the affected joints.

If your vet is unsure of which joint has been affected, they may do a nerve block test, anesthetizing one joint at a time until their symptoms temporarily improve.

Your vet may use x-rays, ultrasounds, arthroscopy, and other tests to collect more information about the condition of your horse's joints.

Balancing Exercise And Rest For Horses With Arthritis

Light to moderate exercise is typically recommended for horses with arthritis, depending on the severity of their symptoms. Exercise can help keep your horse flexible, manage their weight, and increase their circulation, as well as keep them from suffering from boredom and depression.

With your vet's guidance, you may still be able to ride your horse, though you'll want to make some accommodations. Allow for longer warm up and cool down periods, and consider adding stretches and massages to your routine.

Joint Supplements For Horses With Arthritis

Oral supplements have been shown to help alleviate symptoms, reduce inflammation, and even control the progression of arthritis.

Joint supplements contain ingredients like glucosamine, chondroitin, hyaluronic acid (HA), and methylsulfonylmethane (MSM). Grizzly Joint Aid is a good source of all four.

Omega-3 fatty acids are also recommended to help control inflammation. Omega-3s can be found in flaxseed or The Missing Link Well Blend & Joint.

Medication For Horses With Arthritis

Your vet may prescribe NSAIDs to help manage your horse's pain. Phenylbutazone is one of the most commonly prescribed drugs for equine arthritis, and it comes in tablets, oral paste, and as an injection.

Steroid shots, such as Adequan i.m., are another treatment option. Adequan helps protect your horse's joints from further damage, repairs joint cartilage, and reduces inflammation. It is administered as an injection at the infected joint every 4 days for 7 treatments, spanning a total of 28 days.

A correct diagnosis is essential before starting any treatment, even oral supplements. Talk to your vet as soon as you notice even subtle signs of lameness in your horse. Early treatment is critical to reducing strain on your horse's joints caused by inflammation.