What Are the Uses of Glucosamine for Horses?

Madeleine A.

Glucosamine for horses is used to treat joint pain and osteoarthritis. For horses, the liquid form of glucosamine is preferable because it is better absorbed and comes in flavors that the horse enjoys. In addition to the flavoring, liquid glucosamine for horses also contains other nutrients that aid in absorption. Some equine veterinarians recommend that glucosamine for horses be simultaneously given with chondroitin, a dietary supplement said to benefit joint health.

Joint pain in a horse might be treated with glucosamine.
Joint pain in a horse might be treated with glucosamine.

As the horse ages, its cartilage dries and becomes fragile. Glucosamine can help restore flexibility to painful and injured joints, and if taken in conjunction with chondroitin, can restore lubrication to the cartilage. Although glucosamine is generally well tolerated by most horses, side effects can occur. These side effects include diarrhea and constipation. Glucosamine can cause stomach upset, heartburn, and nausea in humans, but it is unknown if these side effects occur in horses.

Glucosamine is used to treat joint pain and osteoarthritis in horses.
Glucosamine is used to treat joint pain and osteoarthritis in horses.

Symptoms of arthritis in a horse are similar to those in humans and include pain, joint stiffness, inflammation and limited mobility. In addition, arthritis may be so severe in the horse that it may exhibit other symptoms such as weakness, lameness, fever, and loss of appetite. Glucosamine for horses has been shown to decrease these symptoms as effectively as anti-inflammatory medications. In addition, glucosamine can usually be taken by the horse indefinitely and some veterinarians even recommend that the arthritic horse remain on the supplement for the rest of its life.

Since glucosamine is considered a nutritional supplement and not a medication, it is not subject to the rigors of government testing in the way that medications are. The caretaker should discuss the administration of glucosamine for horses with an equine veterinarian before beginning treatment with the supplement. The veterinarian can also explain the pros and cons of dietary supplements and recommend alternative methods of treatment, if necessary.

Joint problems in the horse usually require various treatments that may include medications, wrapping the legs, and applying ointments. Commonly, exercise is the treatment of choice for stiff joints and osteoarthritis, however, resting the joints is sometimes recommended until the acute phases of pain subside. Caretakers should monitor the horse for symptoms of joint problems such as swelling or knots on the legs, limping, slow or unsteady gait, and lameness. If these symptoms occur, the veterinarian needs to be notified at once because the sooner treatment is started, the more favorable the outcome will be.

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