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Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD) is one of the most commonly diagnosed conditions in equine practices with about 60% of lameness being attributed to arthritis or DJD. Many performance horses must compete without the commonly used anti-inflammatory drugs. For many other horses, the gastrointestinal side effects of these anti-inflammatory drugs limit their use.


Young horses that experience repeated cycles of athletic trauma (damage to ligaments which alter the biomechanical function of the joints) can have remodeling and microfracture in the bone underlying the articular cartilage. Even with normal use of the joints, cartilage damage can occur from synovitis and capsulitis, normal aging processes or osteochondrosis (leading to osteochondritis dissecans or OCD). Natural compounds help reduce inflammation, improve cartilage health and synovial fluid quality.





The following nutraceuticals or natural/herbal formulas can also provide effective treatment for your canines and felines living with arthritis.



Integrative Medicine


» Glucosamine sulfate: The safest and widely-used remedies for arthritis. Helps rehabilitate the damaged cartilage and also acts as an anti-inflammatory agent relieving some of the joint pain. When used alone, it helps the body manufacture its own chondroitin.

» Chondroitin sulfate: Helps prevent the degradation of joint cartilage and reduces inflammation. Often used in combination with glucosamine in protecting against future cartilage degeneration.


» Curcumin: A powerful anti-inflammatory supplement – thereby reducing joint pain. Derived from turmeric (a herbaceous perennial plant of the ginger family and native to tropical South Asia), curcumin also offers the crucial benefit of protecting your horse’s liver, kidneys and GI tract against the side effects of NSAIDs. When using curcumin as a treatment, it is important to use the highest potency and absorption rate available.


» Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM): Often recommended by veterinarians. Helps form glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate and important amino acids. Animal studies have shown MSM helps maintain normal articular cartilage. May also help inhibit pain.


» Green-Lipped Mussel (Perna canaliculus): Research shows that perna mussels are effective in managing degenerative joint diseases and arthritis (in both animals and humans). Less joint pain, joint stiffness, inflammation and improved mobility have been shown.

» Bromelain: An anti-inflammatory and pain reducer.


» Boswellia: An anti-inflammatory which also increases blood supply to the joints for increased joint repair.

» Vitamin C: Enhances the production of collagen which provides soft-tissue joint support.


» Zinc, Selenium and Manganese: Helps the body utilize antioxidants.

» Omega 3 and Omega 6 essential fatty acids: Helps reduce joint tenderness and morning stiffness.


» Shark cartilage: Helps stimulate cartilage repair.


» Acupuncture.


In addition to the effective nutraceuticals listed above, the following supplements and/or drugs have also been shown to provide additional relief for horses living with arthritis.


» Chia Seeds and Flax/Hemp Oil can provide effective treatment for equines living with arthritis.


» Hyaluronate Sodium:  An intravenous, injectable (directly into the affected joint) solution available by prescription. Hyaluronate sodium quickly converts to hyaluronic acid in the joint offering an anti-inflammatory effect in the equine’s joint. It also seems to decrease the future degradation of the affected joint. Visible improvement has been shown after a series of injections. It can also be used in conjunction with oral supplements with no negative reactions.


» Polysulfated Glycosaminolglycan (PSGAG): Possibly the most powerful drug today for treating arthritis in horses. Protects existing cartilage from additional deterioration; may also help lay down new cartilage by binding itself to the existing cartilage structure.


» Dimethyl Sulfoxide (DMSO): A common topical drug applied to the affected joint to reduce swelling and inflammation.


» Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs): Another common drug given orally or by injection to block pain and reduce inflammation. The use of NSAIDs in horses has been linked to equine gastrointestinal ulcers.


Osteoarthritis/Degenerative Joint Disease
(Reference: Veterinarians’ Desk Reference)

(Live Link)


Species affected: Horses


Background: Decrease in viscosity and loss of lubricative effect of the joint fluid, calcium deposits on the articular ends of bones as well as in the soft tissue of the joint capsule and ligaments.

Symptoms: Pain, stiffness, decreased range of motion, generally worse upon arising or in cool weather; improves with movement, but in some cases worsens with exercise; bony growths visible.

Diagnostics: Physical examination, radiographs, ultrasound.


Special Notes: It may be necessary to address the origin of the problem as well as supporting the healing process. Causes may include familial predisposition, poor conformation, weakening of the ligaments and tendons, injury to the joint, poor-quality food, autoimmune conditions, allergies and "leaky bowel syndrome." In some horses on long-term supplementation, it may be advisable to change types of products periodically (yearly) to enhance the health of the joints in a variety of ways, especially if the response to one product is only moderate.


Principles for Supplementation: Anti-inflammatory, nourish the joint.









1 scoop bid

Down-regulates the pro-inflammatory substances, tumor necrosis factor, alpha (TNF-α) and nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-κB), supports normal joint function.

Limber Up14

4 tsp bid

Arthritis and stiffness, especially that worsens in cold and damp weather.

J-Flex Concentrate7

2000-4000 mg sid

Supports joint function.

Equinyl Combo9

3 scoops sid for 10 days, then 2 scoops sid

Glucosamine, chondroitin (can get with hyaluronic acid also), supports joint function, contains Vitamin C for synthesis of proteoglycans and collagen.

Glucosamine & Chondroitin12

6-10 capsules sid for 4 weeks, reduce to 4-8 capsules sid or as needed

This combination stimulates the production of cartilage cells while inhibiting destructive enzymatic action on those cells.

Hilton Multi


Hilton Multi


½ oz sid

Hyaluronic acid reduces inflammation in joints, lubricates.

Noni IcyHeat15

Topical application to sore joints, as needed

Improves circulation, relieves pain. Use caution on front legs to prevent horse getting into eyes. Warming formula contains camphor. Can test positive.

Flax/Hemp Oil

3 tbsp sid

Anti-inflammatory; stabilizes membranes.

Chia Booster (chia seeds)19

1 scoop bid

Stabilizes membranes, source Omega 3 fatty acids.

Soreness Salve5

Topical application to sore joints, as needed

Improves circulation, relieves pain.


To help you quickly find the right Integrative Medicine formulas and manufacturers to help treat your dogs, cats and horses, please refer to the Veterinarians’ Desk Reference
(Click Here)





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