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Arthritis in horse

Joint Problems in Horses:

Though arthritis is mostly a human affliction, animals can suffer from this degenerative disease too.

Arthritis is especially common in horses; they often lose the functioning of their legs due to the degeneration caused by this disorder.
Arthritis continues to be the number one cause of lameness in horses. Though the disease can occur in any joint, the joints of the upper knees, the hocks, the fetlocks in the front, and the coffin joints of both the front and the back feet are more prone to this disorder. Injuries are the main cause of arthritis in horses.

Abnormal growth, looseness in the joints, and genetic inheritance are some of the other causes of arthritis in horses.

The pathology of the disease is similar to that in humans. When joints are healthy, they are surrounded by a synovial fluid which keeps lubricating the joints and the ligaments that support them. If for some reason this lubrication is affected, the cartilage becomes hard and the cushion of the joint breaks down completely.

As the cartilage keeps wearing down, the bones start to grind against each other. This situation can be quite painful ultimately.

As in humans, older horses are more susceptible to developing arthritis. When a horse is more than fifteen years of age, the cartilaginous tissues wear down rapidly. The tissues degenerate faster than the time taken by the body to make new ones. There is also a higher likelihood of the tendons and ligaments becoming more elastic due to the age of the horse. The ligaments and tendons experience a lot of wear and tear due to the increased elasticity. The joint becomes destabilized and there might be inflammation too. As the joints deteriorate, the shape of the legs of the horse begins to change. Horses that are overworked or are usually not kept fit may also suffer from arthritis.

If detected early, arthritis can be treated and managed. However, in a lot of cases, the early warning signs are ignored and the horse ends up going through a great deal of pain. Swelling and the rise of temperature, especially around the joints, are the first symptoms of arthritis. The horse will have a significantly decreased range of motion and there will be considerable stiffness in the joints. The horse may also have symptoms of lameness and may have an abnormal trot.

It is advisable to check your horse’s joints every now and then in order to make sure that there are no symptoms of swelling or pain in horse joints. This should be especially done with horses that are old.

  Submitted on February 23, 2010