Dear Horse Journal,
The glucosamine/MSM/chondroitin etc supplements I've used had trace amounts of each, so I am not convinced any did any good. I'm still searching the seemingly hundreds of supplements to get a significant amount of all ingredients.
For example, when I find one with 100mg HA, they are short of everything else. What is an elderly horse owner to do?
Horse Journal Contributing Veterinary Editor Grant Miller DVM responds:
Yes, there are hundreds of joint supplements on the market. Searching through all of them can overwhelm a horse owner, especially when you are trying to find a product that meets specific recommended levels of certain ingredients. Horse Journal published lists of our top picks of joint supplements in our January and February 2012 issues go to horse-journal.com.
When looking for solutions for your elderly horse, remember that:
1) Following Horse Journal's advice on recommended levels of joint supplements can greatly increase your chances of seeing a result.
2) Using a double dose of a joint supplement for the first two weeks can help quite a bit.
3) Sometimes, oral supplements need to be changed up a bit. If you are not getting a result with one brand, you may want to try a different product.
4) If you are not seeing satisfactory results with an oral supplement, it may be time to try an injectable supplement like Legend or Adequan.
5) An elderly horse may require more help with arthritis than a joint supplement can provide. This does not mean that it should not receive a joint supplement, in fact, it may be necessary to use multiple joint supplements in order to achieve enough of an effect to keep the horse comfortable.
6) Sometimes, a horse needs actual prescribed medication to ward away joint pain. One such medication is firocoxib (Previcox, Equioxx), a non-steroidal Cox-2 selective anti-inflammatory that is designed for long term, once a day use to aid in the control of musculoskeletal inflammation. In more severe cases of arthritis, your veterinarian may need to inject cortisone directly into the arthritic joints periodically to help control inflammation and pain.
7) Reading labels is important. Make sure that you determine how many scoops of the product are required to equal one serving. Then, make sure that the serving has decent amounts of supplement (this is where the HJ recommended Ingredient levels can come in handy.)
8) Don't make the supplement do all the work! Weight control and allowing the horse to be out and moving as much as possible still remain the most effective ways to aid in control of arthritis pain.
9) In many instances, people who own elderly horses have already come to the realization that they can no longer ride their horse. If you have not yet stopped riding, but you are noticing that your horse is increasingly painful despite the use of supplements, you may need to consider retiring the horse.
10) As much as Horse Journal tries to help owners through various horse issues without telling them to call their vet, it may be a good idea to run things past yours when determining an arthritis management plan for your horse. Phone advice is usually free, and let's faces it, veterinarians have a lot of experience when it comes to this subject.
No one management plan or supplement will work the same for every horse. It is not easy to figure out what works for your horse, but don't give up! There are options. Horses are an incredibly resilient and adaptable species and so even in the later stages of life, they still can respond well to management changes and thrive!