Joint disease accounts significantly for poor performance and economic loss in athletic horses. It may also contribute to a horse’s premature death.
Prevention and treatment
The primary key to successful prevention of joint diseases is a balanced diet to supply cartilage, muscles and ligaments with sufficient nutrients. The second key is adequate exercise, which stimulates metabolic exchange and thus the delivery of nutrients into the joints. Ongoing damage can by limited by early recognition of symptoms and prompt treatment.
To prevent irreparable destruction of cartilage the treatment of joint disease has to start early. Therapeutic objectives include limiting inflammation and blocking the release of destructive inflammatory mediators.
Leaving joint inflammation untreated results in erosion of the cartilage. Eventually this leads to significant damage to the cartilage. The damage progresses and develops into degenerative joint disease (DJD) or osteoarthritis. The DJD cannot be cured, only managed, and often leads to premature decease of the horse.
Everyday use, training or performance may result in trauma or stress to the joint. Repeated exposure to these factors often initiates inflammation in the synovial membrane and joint capsule. The resulting symptoms are lameness, swelling, and heat.
As a consequence of the inflamed synovial membrane, leukocytes invade the joint space. Both synovial membrane and leukocytes release destructive enzymes, free radicals, cytokines and prostaglandins. Left untreated, these inflammatory mediators have a destructive effect upon the cartilage.