Any successful approach to a health or lameness problem must address all the contributing factors. Too many people expect a quick fix from a pill, shot or supplement. When it doesn’t work, they blame the treatment, not recognizing that the real reason it didn’t work is that they failed to look at the big picture.
Handling your horse’s health care is a bit like baking a cake. Successfully baking a cake takes precise amounts of each ingredient, the correct pan, the right oven temperature and a specific baking time. Even altitude changes can affect these settings. Your horse’s health is more complicated than baking a cake, of course, but it’s still the right mixture of your horse’s body, treatments and manipulating the environment around him.
Few medications actually result in cures. The most notable exception is an antibiotic. Most other medications are more like firewalls. When you throw water on a wood fire and put it out, the fire is “cured.” If you close a firewall around the fire, you prevent the fire from spreading but it rages on anyway. Bute for arthritis pain is like a firewall. It’s a quick fix but doesn’t change the underlying problem. Some treatments can even make things worse when not handled properly. There are no magic bullets in veterinary medicine.
The correct dosage of a needed vitamin, mineral or nutraceutical for arthritis can improve joint health. However, a good joint supplement won’t be as successful as it could be if you haven’t also taken care of aggravating factors in the arthritis, like hoof issues, excess body weight, and exercise levels. The more complicated a condition is, the more critical it is to keep the big picture in mind and fully understand what every drug or supplement is made to do.
For example, laminitis caused by insulin resistance due to a pituitary tumor is a good example of a complicated health issue that requires a look at the big picture. The successful treatment involves drugs for the pituitary tumor, strict diet control and balancing for the insulin resistance, and meticulous foot care by a team of professionals who really know what they’re doing. None of these elements alone — as single ingredients — will get the job done. Leave out or mess up any one area and you have about as much chance of being successful to cure your horse as you would placing a bowl of flour in a cold oven to bake a cake.
-Eleanor M. Kellon, VMD