Osteoarthritis is extremely common and not just in humans, it can affect a range of animals, especially horses. Also known as a degenerative joint disease, this condition can be debilitating, painful and can lead to reduced athletic function. Here we provide an overview of equine osteoarthritis for horse owners.
What is Equine Osteoarthritis?
Arthritis refers to inflammation in the joint and whilst there are numerous types, osteoarthritis is the most common form and can cause an intense amount of pain. Osteoarthritis is a synovial joint disease that breaks down the cartilage which covers and protects the bone ends forming the joint. Over time this begins to thicken due to the continuous wear and the joint no longer functions smoothly. The disease can impact any joint in the body including the hips, jaw, and spine however it usually forms in the knees, fetlocks, and stifles. The condition is chronic and can progress at different rates. There are multiple causes of osteoarthritis which include trauma, aging, and sepsis to name just a few.
Which horses can suffer from Equine Osteoarthritis?
Unfortunately, this condition can affect all horses regardless of their breed, age or discipline. Therefore, it is a disease that all horse owners should be aware of, take seriously and seek professional medical help if your horse starts to show the common symptoms.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms can vary however, they can include swelling in the localised area, lameness, and stiffness. There may also be a cracking or grinding sensation in the affected joint.
It can be challenging for owners to establish how much pain the animal is in. As one of the main Osteoarthritis symptoms is lameness, your vet will carry out a lameness work up to help diagnose and accurately determine where the pain is originating. X-rays can sometimes be used to spot lesions however, these will not be visible in the early stages of the condition. You may also notice that the horse is stiff when they start to move when they come out of the stable. However, stiffness does not necessarily mean it is Osteoarthritis and could be a symptom for something else which will have to be ruled out first.
What are the methods of treatment?
Methods to effectively manage the pain caused by equine osteoarthritis are still limited. However, there are pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical options that owners can choose from.
Before any treatment options are chosen, any medical condition should be discussed with a vet beforehand. Using the wrong method or delaying the treatment can result in serious consequences, negatively impacting the health of your horse.
One popular non-pharmaceutical treatment method is effective weight management. The number of overweight horses continues to rise and this extra weight can cause significant strain on the affected joint. By increasing their exercise regime and reducing the amount of daily food intake, this can be achieved. As the horse is in pain ensure the exercise remains light and low impact for longer periods. Short intense bursts of exercise could cause more strain on the affected joint.
At the early stages, OA affects movement even before a visible lameness is seen. These subtle changes in movement will lead to compensation as weight bearing is shifted to other areas so it is important to support the whole body.
OA can be crippling and can cause your horse a lot of pain as the condition develops. It can also be frustrating for the owner to manage the condition both in the short term and long term. Although the disease is common other conditions have similar symptoms, so if you believe your horse is in pain, you must seek professional veterinary advice.
A qualified NAVP veterinary physiotherapist will be able to support you following diagnosis and help manage the symptoms using the many skills in their toolbox such as massage, kinesiotaping and laser. The suitability of each depending on the individual animal following a full assessment.
Hydrotherapy has been around for thousands of years due to the healing properties of water. The benefits of hydrotherapy for dogs cannot be understated. Water is used as a form of therapy that aids healing and improves overall health. Whilst humans have been using this method for a long time, using it for animals is comparatively new. Starting with racehorses, they were walked through water to help heal and improve their strength. This then moved onto racing greyhounds and now is regularly used on many forms of smaller animals, including cats and dogs.
Here we discuss in more detail what hydrotherapy is as well as the benefits of hydrotherapy for dogs.
What is hydrotherapy?
The properties of water allow the dog to exercise without having to bear its full weight on the injured area. Doing these exercises can not only improve the circulation of blood to the muscles, but it can also improve overall flexibility and reduce pain and swelling significantly.
Hydrotherapy for dogs usually involves walking in water or swimming. A specific treatment plan is structured for each patient, depending on the injury and condition of the dog.
Types of Hydrotherapy for dogs
In many cases, the dog will start off on the underwater treadmill as this more control over the dog’s movements. Therefore, the treatment can be much more targeted. The water level is dependent on the dog and their condition which is why this method of hydrotherapy can be extremely effective, as it can be tailored. The amount of support provided through the water level and treadmill speed to the dog will depend on their condition as well as their progress.
Whirlpool therapy is often used on dogs post-surgery as it can reduce pain substantially. Once the dog has entered the water, a warm jet stream comes on which is essentially massaging the dog and helping ease the pain of their injury.
Hydrotherapy in the pool is less controlled but is still an effective way to improve mobility and strength. Especially for elbows, chest muscles, and limbs. If the dog is not comfortable in the water, some dogs may prefer the pool as it is more freeing and potentially more fun. However, the treadmill or whirlpool may be more beneficial to them. A pet hydrotherapy specialist will be able to determine whether a treadmill, whirlpool, pool, or a combination will work best for your dog.
What conditions can hydrotherapy help?
This form of treatment has been proven to help a range of conditions including, but not limited to:
What are the benefits of Hydrotherapy?
Hydrotherapy provides a safe, low-impact form of exercise that can benefit your dog greatly. Not only can it help reduce pain from injuries, but it is also great for improving core strength, weight loss, and building strength.
Whether your dog has orthopaedic, neurological, soft tissue injuries, or some other degenerative medical condition, hydrotherapy could be an important and effective part of their overall health and fitness plan. To find out whether this form of treatment is suitable for your dog and their condition, get in touch with a qualified pet physiotherapist who will be able to advice you on the next steps.
People are regularly told about the importance of core engagement to help improve your health and keep a high level of fitness. This is the same for horses. When people ride a horse, they are sitting on the weakest part of the horse's back. Therefore, it is imperative that this area of the horse's body is taken care of and strengthened. Doing daily core exercises can be extremely beneficial to keeping a horse's fitness and strength high. Here, we discuss the benefits of core engagement for your horse.
Arthritis is a common infliction in dogs that can be debilitating. Although it is mainly older dogs that suffer, chronic pain in younger dogs can also be caused by arthritis. Despite arthritis being extremely commonplace, there is still a lot that that dog owners do not know about the condition. Since it can cause your dog extreme pain, it is important to learn as much as you can about it. Even if your dog has not been diagnosed, it is also vital that you know the signs. In our guide for pet owners, we discuss in more detail what arthritis is, what the symptoms are, what causes it, and what treatments are available.
Animal physiotherapy is a holistic therapy based on scientific research and usually carried out under veterinary referral. From horses to dogs, farm animals and more, animal physiotherapy has been proven to significantly improve mobility and health. Here we answer the questions "What is animal physiotherapy?" and "will physiotherapy help my pet?"