Osteoarthritis in Horses

Just like human beings, horses can uffer from a variety of chronic diseases, including osteoarthritis. In this article, find out more about osteoarthritis in horses, also known as equine OA, the symptoms and treatments.

Equine Osteoarthritis

According to statistics, arthritis, and related conditions, for example, osteoarthritis is the leading cause of lameness in horses. Also known as equine OA, this condition is characterised by the degeneration of joint cartilage tissues, osteophyte formation, bone sclerosis, and pain and inflammation of the joints.

Equine osteoarthritis can be caused by several factors including, the wear and tear of the joint tissues resulting from old age and years of intense activity, lack of synovial fluid, and trauma.

Diagnosing Equine OA

The typical symptoms of OA are swelling and discomfort resulting from pain. When a horse shows these symptoms, the best thing to do is to call a veterinarian who will examine it and conduct a full lameness test. Advanced diagnosis may also include nuclear scintigraphy and arthroscopy.

Treatment and Management

There is no treatment for osteoarthritis in horses, but several management options are available depending on the extent of the damage. These management options help in alleviating pain and inflammation and slow down the wear and tear of joints.

The options here include systemic nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDs), viscosupplementation intraarticular steroids (injections), and chondroprotectants. Therapy can also be administered.


Osteoarthritis may be a chronic condition with no treatment, but then, it doesn’t mean that’s the end of the horse. In the early stages, many horses will still carry people and even participate in competitions. Anti-inflammatory aids administered using daily feed show promising results in decreasing joint inflammation in horses with early-stage OA.

But then, when the vet says the condition is at an advanced stage, then the osteoarthritic horse should be limited to low-impact activities only.

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