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Arthritis (or osteoarthritis) is also known as degenerative joint disease. Arthritis can occur if the joints have been affected by disease or trauma, or simply as a result of normal age-related wear and tear. The type of work a horse has done during its lifetime (both the intensity and frequency of work) can affect the development of arthritic changes in the joints. For example, a high-performance dressage horse is more likely to have degenerative joint changes than a horse that is only used recreationally. Pain and degenerative changes in and around the joints can result in lameness.

Can arthritis be treated?

Just like in humans, arthritis cannot be cured. So treatment revolves around relieving pain and trying to minimise further changes in the joints. Treatments prescribed by your vet may include:

  • oral anti-inflammatory medications to relieve joint pain and inflammation
  • medication injected directly into the affected joints
  • massage, physical therapy or chiropractic adjustments

If your horse is affected by arthritis, you may need to modify his or her workload or intensity of work, but some level of exercise should be maintained for good health.