Age for Onset of Osteoarthritis

Q: At what age is osteoarthritis likely to start in a horse?

A: You most typically start to see an onset of osteoarthritis (OA) in adult horses 4 to 6 years old, but that can vary a great deal due to breed of the horse and its use. Conformation is also a very important consideration leading to OA.

A poorly conformed horse is more likely to be predisposed to an arthritic condition that would affect them earlier in life. Predisposing radiographic factors that are present in a young horse can also indicate possible future issues.

As an example, sometimes foals and young horses will have compression in their hocks leading to degenerative and arthritic changes early on in that joint. Spurs in the knees are another. So in the radiographs during a prepurchase exam you might see these tell-tale signs that can indicate the horse might have a problem later.

About the Author

Scott W. Pierce, DVM

Scott W. Pierce, DVM, joined Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital, Lexington, Ky., in 1985 and became a partner in 1989. He continues to practice in an ambulatory capacity with Rood & Riddle and is a founding owner of Kinetic Technologies.

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