Equine Science Update
Reports from the world of  equine research.
Value of oral glucosamine and chondroitin.
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Many products are now available that claim to protect joint cartilage when given by mouth. But do oral supplements really help maintain healthy joints? Until recently there has been little work in horses to justify such claims.

A new study has looked at the value of oral supplementation with glucosamine and chondroitin in competition horses.

Dr Martha Rodgers VMD is a veterinarian in private practice in Lexington Kentucky, who specialises in equine lameness. She has recently concluded a long-term study into the value of regular supplementation with glucosamine and chondroitin on soundness in working show hunters and jumpers.

She studied ten working show hunters and jumpers that had been trained by the same trainer over an eight-year period. For the first two years of the study, the horses received no supplementation. But for the last six years, each horse had been given an oral supplement (which gave 3.9g glucosamine and 1.2 g chondroitin per dose) twice daily. *

To assess the value of the supplement on the incidence of lameness, she reviewed the clinical records to see how often the horses had been treated for hock pain.

Dr Rodgers examined the horses if the trainer complained of soreness, improper gait transitions or lack of jumping impulsion. She evaluated the gait, and used flexion tests, radiographic changes and intra-articular anaesthesia to determine the source of the pain. If a diagnosis of distal tarsal pain was confirmed she injected the tarso-metatarsal and distal hock joint with corticosteroids and hyaluranon.

She found that the number of times she needed to inject the joints fell while the horses were receiving the glucosamine / chondroitin supplement. The frequency of distal tarsal joint injections fell from an average of 1.7 injections a year when the horses were not receiving glucosamine/chondroitin, to 0.85 injections a year once they were receiving the supplement.  There was a marked reduction in frequency of injections after 5 - 8 months of treatment.

“Distal tarsitis is a progressive disease. It would be expected that with increasing age and the demands of show horse performance the horses would need more therapy, not less” Dr Rodgers points out. “In the light of this, the overall drop in the number of injections required and the decrease in injection frequency over the eight year study period can be seen as an even more convincing argument for the beneficial effects of long-term supplementation.”

Regular, twice daily administration of a combined glucosamine / chondroitin supplement resulted in longer duration of soundness and fewer joint injections. Six to eight months of regular administration were needed before the favourable response was seen.

*GL5500  GLC Direct, Paris KY. www.glcdirect.com

For more details see:

Effects of oral glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate supplementation on the frequency of intra-articular therapy of the horse tarsus.
M R Rodgers
International Journal of Applied Research in Veterinary Medicine (2006) 4, 155 - 162.   
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© Copyright Equine Science Update  2006