A recent study in the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science from the Dutch Animal Health Center suggests supplements make a difference with OCD.
OCD is osteochondritis dessicans – a cartilage defect found in various joints (not the obsessive compulsive behavior disorder). This is not an unusual problem in young horses, especially Thoroughbreds. When listed simply as OC (ostechondrosis), the condition is a milder form with no loose flaps of cartilage in the joint. Either way, a condition you would prefer to avoid!
The initial study looked at 64 mare and foal teams from birth to five months of age. The teams were divided into two groups. One group received a mineral supplement with special emphasis on magnesium. Milk samples from the mares and bone biomarkers in blood were looked at along the way. At the end of the study, knee, hock and fetlock joints were radiographed (x-rayed) to look for any signs of lesions.
The second study followed the same protocol but with 54 mare and foal teams with foals aged five to 12 months. Similar blood samples for bone biomarkers were evaluated.
In the first study, the incidence of OCD was 21.9% in the supplemented group versus 41.9% in the non-supplemented group. In the second study, there was a decrease in incidence of 14.3% in the group that was supplemented.
Supplementing minerals – done carefully with consultation with your veterinarian and/or an equine nutritionist – could reduce the chances of your foal developing OCD. And it looks like doing the supplementing early on, to the mare while the foal is nursing, might be the most efficient way of doing this.
Deb M. Eldredge, DVM, Contributing Veterinary Editor