Consider the average adult human: they weigh approximately 140 pounds and balance their weight on two legs – relying on about 70 pounds of weight stability per leg. Now, compare that to 4-legged horses, which weigh between 800 and 2,200 pounds on average (not even including when they are pregnant). Therefore, by the same measure, equines have a weight stability demand of anywhere from 200 to 550 pounds per leg – it’s little wonder why arthritis in horses is such a deep concern for handlers. While traditional vet medicines and treatments abound for this condition, even the widely-used drugs meant to treat horse arthritis come with potential side effects, making alternative, natural remedies an enticing option.
Like human and even dog arthritis medical treatment, natural and alternative remedies are best used for proactive health maintenance in horses, rather than as an only solution applied to severe cases. In many instances, thankfully, they can be used alongside prescribed medications or treatments as part of an overall equine vet-approved approach.
What Are The Symptoms Of Arthritis In Horses?
It’s essential to bear in mind that rather than being a distinct ailment, “arthritis” is used as a catch-all term to describe ongoing, chronic joint pain and inflammation, regardless of species. A “symptom” of arthritis simply means that joint inflammation is present and won’t necessarily narrow down the root cause. In horses, it may be caused by a problem in the joint itself, it may be a symptom of an injury that didn’t heal correctly, or it may even be a side effect of another horse health issue.
Regardless of the root cause, horse handlers must keep an eye out for tell-tale signs that their horse or horses may be suffering from arthritis. These include:
- A stiffness or awkwardness to their usual gait: This symptom will be most apparent to handlers that walk or ride the affected horse regularly, which is why a frequent examination is so critical.
- A joint that appears visually swollen or feels warm to the touch: If the area is affected suddenly, rather than gradually, arthritis may be the result of an infection, and you should call a vet immediately.
- Pain or discomfort (e.g., “favoring” another leg, audible reactions, etc.) In the horse’s expressions and movement when a joint is flexed or stretched. This may appear during normal walking or exercising with a horse or when the horse is working with a farrier or other equine professional.
- Difficulty upon standing after the horse has been laying down for a rest: This is a particularly telling sign in older horses, who are more likely to experience arthritis. If arthritis is suspected, a handler may want to compel their horse to lay down to watch them get back up.