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March 2, 2018

Joint Supplements (Equine) Explained

Joints Supplements Explained:

One of the most common question a veterinarian gets about performance in horses is “What can I do to prevent arthritis?” and “ What supplements should I give my horse?” or “What is better, Adequan, Legend or a joint supplement, like Cosequin?”. There are many options available today for joint health and each has pluses and minuses associated with it. The key is finding what is best for you and your horse at this time. Factors such as age, use, history and comfort giving injections may influence your decision. Is your horse still 3 years old and you want to prevent cartilage break down or is you horse 18 years old and already has documented low ringbone( arthritis of coffin joint). Is your horse horse still in heavy work or retired to pasture? Do you have x-rays to document progression of arthritis? Can you or your trainer give injections or do you have to have your veterinarian come out and give them? There are all factors to consider when deciding what to do.


Joint Inflammation and Arthritis Explained:

            All Horses develop Arthritis to some extent if there is repeated stress and trauma to the joint. No Matter if your horse is a jumper, reiner, eventer, dressage or gaiter horse, s/he will develop some form of arthritis over time. As inflammation occurs the joint develops synovitis, which is inflammation of the synovial membrane. The synovium is a membrane that is a specialized connective tissue which lines the inner surface of capsules of synovial joints and tendon sheaths. It makes synovial fluid which is the main lubricator of joints. The membrane contains Type A cells which maintain the synovial fluid by removing wear-and-tear debris and type B cells which produce hyaluronan (aka hyaluronate or hyaluronic acid ) among other extracellular components in the synovial fluid. When inflammation occurs there are many negative effects on the joint:


Symptoms of arthritis are as follows:


All joint supplements are aimed at decreasing joint inflammation and sustaining good lubrication and cartilage health. This is done with 3 main agents, hyaluronate (going fluid), polysulfated glysocaminaglycans (building blocks for cartilage) and chondroitin.


Here are some x-rays of arthritis:

















Oral vs Injectable:


There are many benefits to injectables over oral medications, but you have to find out if it works for you:







Legend :

Legend is an injectable medication used to treat inflammation in the joint lining. Legend (hyaluronate sodium) is pure hyaluronic acid, similar to the HA present in normal joint fluid. Its indicated use is for treatment of joint dysfunction of the fetlock in horses due to non-infectious synovitis associated with osteoarthritis.  Legend must be given IV and the loading dose is 4 ml once a week for 3 weeks and then once a month thereafter.
Here are some benefits of using this product:



            Polysulfated Glycosaminoglycan is chemically similar to the glycosaminoglycans in articular cartilage matrix. PSGAG is a potent proteolytic enzyme inhibitor and diminishes or reverses the pathologic processes of traumatic or degenerative joint disease, which result in a net loss of cartilage matrix components. PSGAG improves joint function by reducing synovial fluid protein levels and increasing synovial fluid hyaluronic acid concentration in traumatized equine carpal and hock joints.  Adquan is given IM at a loading dose of 5ml once every 4 days for 28 days, then once per month thereafter for maintenance.

Adequan®i.m. (polysulfated glycosaminoglycan) is the only FDA-approved treatment proven to relieve symptoms of non-infectious degenerative osteoarthritis, to stimulate cartilage repair, and reverse the joint disease process


Other Injectables:

            These are used off label for joints, but have similar chemical makeup of legend and adequan:



Joint/Arthritis Supplements:

            There are too many types of supplements in this category to discuss them all. There is not a lot of research behind them and the research that does exist is not always conclusive/convincing. Some of the advantages are that there is not veterinary prescription required (although we recommend using under the guidance of a veterinarian) and it may be given orally (versus having to give an injection for adequan and legend). It is not necessarily cheaper, most quality supplements are the same and sometime more costly than injectables over time. The oral supplement ingredients usually have to be broken down in the stomach and rebuilt. Some of the benefits of oral supplements are that they can have additional ingredients added to them such as MSM and omega-3 fatty acids that may help with arthritis and the pain associated with it. Here are some examples of quality oral supplements.


1) Cosequin equine


2) Joint Armour by Kentucky Performance Products


3) Platinum Performance Complete Joint and Vet joint support.


There are many others, these are just some of the supplements the author has had success with.



So in summary, there are many options out there to aid in prevent of and treat of arthritis in the performance horse. It is the experience of the author that legend and adequan add a lot of benefit to the horse, but are not always practical for the horse owner that is not comfortable with needles. Supplements are a great second option and in many cases gives the performance horse a large benefit. You just have to discuss with your veterinarian what is best for you and your horse.