When you've been into a tack store anytime recently, you'll have probably observed that close to two-thirds of the shop is devoted to oral supplements meant to combat arthritis. The products are wonderfully packaged, closely marketed, impressively endorsed and generally even suggested by veterinarians. That being stated nobody knows how or if they work in horses at this point in time.
Oral supplements usually are made of one of two substances (and typically both). These two substances are chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine ( glucsoamine hydrochloride is one frequent kind in lots of equine products). Orally administered chondroitin sulfate has been proven to have anti-inflammatory effects in a few species (including man but not yet with horses). Absorption research on horses hasn't been revealed yet. However, from all of the studies which have been printed, one factor seems certain with these products; they don't have any negative effect on horses.
Glucosamine is a fancy sugar molecule from which the proteoglycans which are found in normal joint cartilage are made. It is actually found almost universally in small quantities in most foods (and in larger quantities in foods that contain cartilage). Analysis completed on folks with osteoarthritis who took glucosamine orally confirmed that it was as effective as ibuprofen at controlling the pain and soreness associated with the disease. Other research have proven that glucosamine has a direct anti-inflammatory effect. Furthermore, there's evidence (in humans) that glucosamine is absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract.
Glucosamine additionally will increase the manufacturing of GAGs by the joint cartilage. This intriguing discovering brings up the question of whether or not glucosamine could be used to "restore" joint cartilage that has been damaged or to promote cartilage health. If it could do these things, there is no reason why every horse should not be taking the stuff. Nevertheless, even when you do not think about this aspect of glucosamine.
Up to now, there have been only a few studies of oral joint supplements to treat joint irritation in horses. Horse knee joints have been irritated by the injection of a substance. They were given injection of intravenous hyaluronan, intramuscular PSGAG and by a heavily marketed brand of oral joint supplement. The first two therapies helped relieve the signs of irritation (the PSGAG seemed better). The supplements had no apparent effect. This research certainly isn't the ultimate word about oral joint supplements and it could not even be the best experimental data set in which to research horse arthritis (for instance, injecting an irritating substance into a joint definitely does not mimic osteoarthritis). Nonetheless, the results of this study confirmed that two injectable products appeared to help relieve joint irritation and the oral one didn't.
Nonetheless, three different studies evaluating oral joint supplements in horses both have been published. The first one was a medical trial performed on horses with osteoarthritis. The twenty five horse examined all appeared to get better after receiving an oral joint supplement; the development was reduced in two weeks after the onset of therapy. However the study wasn't double blinded meaning the examiners knew that the horses they were inspecting were receiving remedies (and their evaluation was likely biased as a result). Nonetheless, the study suggests that there's a reason to evaluate the effectiveness of these products. A second piece of research indicated benefit from the use of an oral joint supplement in the therapy for navicular syndrome (a situation which is similar to osteoarthritis). Yet a third study showed a increase stride length and a reduction in lameness in 25 horses that had been treated with these supplements. There is other research currently ongoing which should give us a better idea of how effective the treatments are.
Because there is a small amount of research on the effectiveness of glucosamine and/or chondroitin sulfate supplements in horses, there are different questions that are worth asking. For example, one question may be, "Does the product that I'm shopping for include what the label says that it does?" In response to research on the University of Maryland, the answer is, "Not necessarily." Infact, researchers on the College examined 27 glucosamine or chondroitin-sulfate joint supplements and found that quite a lot of them didn't have the amounts of the each mineral in them that the label said they did. The precise content may even fluctuate from month to month as totally different batches of product are released.
Furthermore, how do you decide which product will be the most effective for your horse? There's quite a lot of advertising hoohah about where the glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate that's found in these merchandise comes from. A number of the supplements are derived from the windpipe of a cow. One other product is constructed from shark cartilage. Another comes from sea mussels. Right now, it is not clear that the place the glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate comes from makes any difference. And once more, most of these supplements have not been rigorously examined for the precise content.
Should you use oral joint supplement for horses to treat arthritis? At this time, there's no clear answer to that question. Research indicates that chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine havbe some promising anti-inflammatory and joint protective results, notably if used in the early stages of arthritis. There's no question that the supplements don't harm your horse. There's also no question that many people (as well as veterinarians) suggest them. However there's no proof to date that they're persistently effective in relieving irritation or cartilage maintenance in horses. However, oral joint supplements will most likely not work in horses with advanced osteoarthritis, since these horses may not have much cartilage left to restore.
Is all this hubbub about joint supplements for horses confusing to you? The most important problem with these supplements is that they are being marketed as a dietary supplement with implied medical benefits. Medical products fall under the jurisdiction of the FDA but dietary supplements don't. Medical merchandise must be rigorously tested and must be labeled correctly and have evidence of effectiveness; nutritional supplements don't.