A few months ago I succumbed to a joint supplement and feed balancer for Archie, after a lot of protesting and time spent looking into whether it was worth it. I learnt a lot about the equine supplement market and also became aware of the huge lack of research out there for equine health. Archie has “clicky stifles”, most likely a condition called upward patella fixation, which doesn’t cause him any particular distress but does mean that he gets stiff behind in the cold weather when he has been stood in. He has never had a lame day, and as he has gained strength in his quadriceps things seem to have settled down, however it is because of this that I decided to go ahead with a joint supplement. Here’s how I ended up at that decision…
As many of you will know I am a bit of a stickler for “evidence based care” when it comes to horses. I’m sure this stems mostly from my day job, but I find that so much equine health is purely advertising and preying on owners desire to do the right thing for their beloved horses. When it came to looking into joint supplements I spent a bit of time looking into both glucosamine and I even collared the orthopaedic registrar during a hip replacement I was anaesthetising for and quizzed him on the current evidence for use of glucosamine in humans. The problem with equine joint supplement research appears to be that the studies which have been undertaken are not particularly conclusive, and there is no financial incentive for companies to complete more in depth research due to the competitive market place and low investment return.
What we do know is that some studies have shown improvement in range of movement, handler scores and lameness grade when supplements containing glucosamine (10g per 500kg horse per day), chondroitin sulphate and MSM have been used. There is very limited information regarding the safety of joint supplements, but at the dose of 10g/500kg horse/day there doesn’t appear to be any recognised side effects. Purchasing your supplement from a company you trust is vital to ensure there are no additional fillers or bulking agents added, and make sure you check the dosage of supplement you are actually giving. Having looked through quite a few options I found that many recommended the 10g/500kg horse/day for an initial loading period and then reduced the dose to around 5g for maintenance. As far as I can tell from the literature there is no evidence for this dosing regime.
When it comes to supplements, sometimes teasing out the placebo effect from the clinical effects is very difficult. All I can say is that on balance I decided that it was worth it, and only time will tell if that was the right decision.
If you’re interested in more detail of the studies surrounding these issues check out this article; http://davidmarlin.co.uk/portfolio/equine-joint-supplements-what-scientific-evidence-is-thee-to-support-their-use/ I can only pass on the information I have gathered from my own literature searches so if there is anything further that I have overlooked please do let me know!