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Medical Treatment of Arthritis in Horses

Date Published: 03/19/2007
Date Reviewed/Revised: 06/06/2011

Thousands of performance horses are being administered various supplements for arthritis. The supplement industry is a multi-billion dollar industry. The only question is, do these supplements really work? We are going to talk about the most common joint supplement ingredients today and those include glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, and a combination of the two. Dr. Sheila Laverty from the University of Montreal indicates glucosamine levels are very small in joint fluid after oral administration but are higher if the joint is inflamed. Currently, there are no studies on glucosamine alone in horses but in humans, despite a large number of clinical trials, the effectiveness is controversial. It seems trials sponsored by the drug companies are always positive and those performed independently are negative.

It does seem that glucosamine sulfate may be better absorbed than glucosamine hydrochloride. Chondroitin sulfate is a concern because of the oral absorption of the product in horses and absorption appears to be related to the quality of the product. Unfortunately, since there are no regulations on these products, it is impossible to know which products are of good quality and which are not. Three clinical trials have been performed on glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate together in horses and all reported beneficial effects on symptoms of joint disease. The last trial was blinded and indicated that after 8 weeks of use, the range of motion and stride length was improved. The positive thing about these compounds is they appear to be very safe. One concern is, at least in people, when glucosamine is combined with chondroitin, less glucosamine is absorbed.

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