Editor's Note: This is an excerpt from Understanding Equine Preventive Medicine by Bradford G. Bentz, VMD. This book is available from www.ExclusivelyEquine.com.

Horses with chronic musculoskeletal disorders may benefit from periodic administration of analgesic medications such as NSAIDs to help control pain when it is at its worst. Conditions such as osteoarthritis (degenerative joint disease) may also benefit from regular administration of oral joint supplements containing chondroitin sulfates and glucosamine, administration of IV hyaluronic acid preparations (Legend™), IM administration of polysulfated glycosaminoglycans (Adequan IM™), and other supportive therapies or combinations of these.

Intra-articular administrations (injections into the affected joint) of hyaluronic acid and/or polysulfated glycosaminoglycans may be more effective in helping to protect and restore health to joint cartilage. Intra-articular steroid therapy is often useful to remove acute or chronic inflammation of an affected joint, to provide rapid pain relief, and to support joint health and function further when it is mixed with hyaluronic acid. If frequent repetitive use of intra-articular steroid therapy becomes necessary to maintain athletic performance, reduction in the level or intensity of the exercise or competition or retirement from competition should be seriously considered. Breeding of genetically adequate animals is also a viable alternative when this point is reached.

Management considerations for horses with chronic musculoskeletal conditions include routine vaccination and deworming, good nutrition that prevents the development of obesity, good footing in all areas where such horses are kept or have access, regular monitoring for exacerbations of the conditions, and the availability of appropriate medical therapy when needed for these conditions.

About the Author

Bradford G. Bentz, VMD, MS, Dipl. ACVIM, ABVP (equine)

Brad Bentz, VMD, Dipl. ACVIM, ABVP, ACVECC, owns Bluegrass Equine Performance and Internal Medicine in Lexington, Ky., where he specializes in advanced internal medicine and critical care focused on helping equine patients recuperate at home. He’s authored numerous books, articles, and papers about horse health and currently serves as commission veterinarian for the Kentucky State Racing Commission.

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