Horse Joint Supplements

Alissa M. Berry
Veterinarian examining horse

As they age, horse's joints deteriorate from injury, disease or regular wear-and-tear. Add a quality joint supplement to your horse's diet to reduce joint pain and retain mobility.

Glucosamine

Glucosamine is a structural component of cartilage. As horses age, their bodies decrease the natural production of glucosamine, which causes cartilage disintegration between joints. Equine glucosamine supplements contain either pure glucosamine or isolated glucosamine from shellfish. Supplement labels show whether the active ingredient is glucosamine sulfate or glucosamine hydrochloride, and both types effectively regenerate new cartilage. The recommended effective dosage is around 6,000 milligrams per day for the average weight horse, and horses at work may need up to 10,000 milligrams per day.

Pros

  • Owners see improvement in as little as 10 to 14 days
  • No known side effects
  • Safe for pregnant mares

Cons

  • Best when it is used with chondroitin rather than alone

Chondroitin

Like glucosamine, chondroitin is an essential element of cartilage by giving cartilage its elasticity and compression resistance. Dosage ranges from 1,250 milligrams per day for horses at rest to 5,000 milligrams per day for horses at work.

Pros

  • Horses move less stiffly
  • Reduces cartilage breakdown
  • No known side effects

Cons

  • Most effective when combined with glucosamine rather than used by itself
  • Does not have the pain relieving effects of glucosamine
  • Very few chondroitin-only supplements exist on the market
  • Low absorption rate

Hyaluronic Acid

Hyaluronic acid is an element of joint fluid. This was the first equine joint supplement and it started as a joint injection in the 1970s. Legend and Adequan are the name brands of injectable hyaluronic acid and are available only by prescription. However, owners can purchase oral gels or powder formulas over the counter. Oral gels cost more than powders but reduce joint swelling, heat and pain faster. Dosage is 100 milligrams per day, and this supplement works well when combined with glucosamine and chondroitin.

Pros

  • Joint injections are extremely effective in reducing joint pain
  • Oral hyaluronic acid gels effectively reduce joint heat, pain and swelling
  • Visible improvement in as little as 48 hours with oral supplements

Cons

  • Injections are expensive and available only by prescription
  • Needles may damage joints if not administered properly
  • Not effective in treating osteoarthritis symptoms

Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM)

MSM Pellets by SmartPak
MSM Pellets by SmartPak

MSM is a sulfur-based anti-inflammatory that reduces joint inflammation and pain. Ron Riegel, DVM, performed a study on 30 racing Standardbreds by giving one group 10 grams (10,000 milligrams) of MSM, the second group 20 grams (20,000 milligrams) of MSM, and the third group nothing for eight weeks. He found that both dosages of MSM effectively reduced inflammation and soreness, but the group receiving 20 grams showed improvement faster. The horses also showed lower aspartate aminotransferase and creatine kinase in blood tests and improved their training times.

Pros

  • No known side effects
  • Effectively reduces joint inflammation
  • Very absorbable

Cons

  • Many combination joint supplements do not contain enough MSM to produce results
  • Not approved for pregnant mares

Herbal Remedies

Studies have shown that several herbal remedies work as effectively as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications. Devil's Claw is an herb that reduces inflammation, and many horse owners use it as an herbal alternative to phenylbutazone. Manufacturers often combine Devil's Claw with other herbs such as yucca, Boswellia and grape seed extract.

Pros

  • Fewer side effects than phenylbutazone with similar anti-inflammatory results
  • Effectively treats osteoarthritis symptoms and joint inflammation

Cons

  • The United States Equestrian Federation lists most herbs as banned substances for competition use
  • Not safe for pregnant or lactating mares
  • Devil's Claw increases gastric secretions, so it is not safe for horses with gastric ulcers
  • Insufficient studies to determine correct dosages for horses

Where to Buy

There are several places online to obtain supplements for your horse.

Chewy.com

Chewy.com sells a variety of name-brand horse joint supplements with one to two-day free shipping on orders over $49.

  • AniMed Glucosamine 5000 costs about $16.00 for a 2.5-pound tub, which has 70 servings. Each serving has 5,000 milligrams of glucosamine. In customer reviews, many report that their horses are noticeably less stiff two to three weeks after beginning this supplement. Reviewers also note that this works best for horses with minor aches and pains, rather than those with severe joint damage.
  • Cosequin Optimized with MSM Powder costs $115.00 for a three-pound tub. Each serving includes 7,200 milligrams of glucosamine, 1,200 milligrams chondroitin sulfate and 5,000 milligrams of MSM. One reviewer notes that her horse no longer needs hock injections after starting this supplement. The only negative reviews of this product note that it does not appeal to picky eaters.

SmartPak

SmartPak sells name-brand joint supplements as well as its own brand. SmartPak's joint supplements are available in pellet form, which makes these easier to feed to picky eaters. When ordering from this company, buyers may purchase supplements in SmartPaks, which contain individually packaged single-servings. This prevents inadvertently overfeeding or underfeeding supplements. Shipping is free on SmartPak orders over $40.

  • SmartFlex Ultra Pellets have 10,000 milligrams of glucosamine, 1,000 milligrams of chondroitin, 100 milligrams of hyaluronic acid and 10,000 milligrams of MSM, making this a good comprehensive supplement in pellet form. A 28-day supply in SmartPaks costs $54.68. Reviews are overwhelmingly positive for this product, with 397 buyers giving it 5 stars. Reviewers note that their horses are noticeably less stiff within 30 days. Negative reviews note that this product does not appeal to some picky eaters, even in pelleted form, and one reviewer says that her horse did not have any improvement on this supplement.
  • For older horses needing more joint support, SmartCombo Senior Ultra Pellets include 12,000 milligrams of MSM, 8,000 milligrams of glucosamine and 700 milligrams of chondroitin, along with additional herbs, minerals and probiotics for hooves, skin and digestion. This supplement costs $99.95 for a 28-day supply in SmartPaks. This product has overwhelmingly positive reviews, with many noting that this is the only supplement that their older horses need for complete support. Only two reviewers note that this product did not appeal to their picky eaters due to the "bad smell."

Valley Vet Supply

Valley Vet Supply sells joint supplements in liquid, powder, paste and pellet formulas.

  • NextLevel Joint Fluid contains 5,000 milligrams of glucosamine, 14.5 milligrams of chondroitin and 1,750 milligrams of MSM. A 32-ounce bottle contains 32 servings and costs $39.95. This product has only four and five-star reviews. One reviewer reports that her 31-year-old mare is noticeably less stiff after only 7 days on this supplement. Many others note that this is a very cost-effective product.
  • Corta-Flx Powder contains 50 milligrams of hyaluronic acid in powder form. A two-pound bucket has 32 servings and costs $25.95. Again, this product only has four and five-star reviews. One reviewer reports that her gelding with numerous joint issues throughout his body benefits greatly from this product. Another reports that she has used this on several horses throughout the years and highly recommends it.

Local Veterinarians and Feed Stores

Local veterinarians and feed stores sell a variety of equine joint supplements. Veterinarians can also recommend which supplements may work best for a horse's individual needs and can administer hyaluronic acid joint injections.

Safe and Effective

Joint supplements reduce cartilage breakdown and inflammation. With very few, if any, side effects, most joint supplements are a cost-effective way to keep horses comfortable and mobile well into old age so you can hopefully avoid using medicines for ailments.

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Horse Joint Supplements