Osteoarthritis OA. a.k.a. Degenerative Joint Disease DJD

Osteo = bone and Arthritis = joint inflammation. OA affects articular joints where two bones, covered in cartilage at their ends, meet and move. Joints commonly involved are the fetlock, pastern, knee, hock, and stifle but any joint such as those between spinal vertebrae or even the jaw and the skull can be affected. Signs include heat, pain, swelling, lameness, loss of mobility, excess joint fluid and sometimes sounds of grating or popping caused by fluid movement.

Early signs are stiffness and a ‘’proppy’’ gait with shortened stride length, especially when first coming out of the box in the morning. Signs may disappear once the horse has warmed up, only to persist and worsen as the joint involved degenerates further. Pain evidenced on flexion and joint heat and swelling tell the story later on.

Treatment revolves around veterinary prescribed pharmaceutical preparations which are effective to varying degrees and Joint Supplements which generally are not. Recently stem cell therapy and the use of platelet rich plasma by intra articular injections has received attention but as yet remain controversial as to their lasting value in OA treatment.  Management strategies should include weight reduction in obese horses coupled with an exercise plan developed with the aid of the attending veterinarian. Physical rehabilitation therapies may help in some horses. Unfortunately, in the vast majority of cases, the condition is progressive and pain management is the most useful therapeutic strategy.

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