Revved up about Joint Supplements

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It wasn't easy getting back to work after the long Thanksgiving weekend, but finishing the edit on Dr. Grant Miller's joint supplements article made it a lot easier.

Set for our January 2012 issue, it gives you clear, concise information about these pricey products. I'm really excited. For one thing, not only do I see the difference they make in my horse, but joint nutraceuticals have helped my own personal mild arthritis as well. For another, I've been told by readers that one Horse Journal article can "pay" for the entire year's subscription. Well, if that's true, this article is definitely it.

Part of a series on equine arthritis by Dr. Miller, this article tells you which oral supplements are worth your money and which waste it. His article on Adequan vs. Legend—the injectable joint products—also emphasized cost and told you how to work with your veterinarian to decide which drug is best for your horse.

But even the decision about oral supplements is no small matter. They're expensive. And, it's marketing mayhem out there. Few ads state what ingredients the products contain, let alone discuss possible side effects or required levels for maximum efficacy. (You're lucky if even the labels give you all this information.) I was surprised to learn that some products suggest serving sizes that don't contain ingredient levels high enough to actually make a difference to your horse.

If you're feeding the product to combat visible arthritis, in that the horse is stiff or sore, you'll know it's not working and can choose a different product. But if you're feeding it more as a preventative, you won?t know. Money in the manure pit.

When we did our first joint-product article in the early 1990s, we found about a half dozen on the market. The big question then was whether these ingredients—mainly glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate and yucca—could actually make a difference. There was virtually no research, and the little that could be found indicated that the molecules couldn't be digested and therefore couldn?t work.

But as word quickly spread among horse barns that these products helped horses, sales exploded. Now, of course, the question isn't do the ingredients work, it's which individual supplement brands actually work. I believe if someone tells you a product didn't help their horse it was probably because they didn't use it properly, they chose one that didn't contain proper ingredients or they were treating something with it that needed a different approach.

So which one should you feed' Well, that's where Dr. Miller's January 2012 article with clear, specific recommendations can help.