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Ask the Vet, Sallie S. Hyman VMD, DACVIM: What About Joint Supplements?
We ask our horses to participate in a variety of athletic endeavors, from reining and dressage, to racing and jumping. All of these activities put stress and strain on their joints.
To understand how joint supplementation may help you horse, you need to know a bit about the make-up of the equine joint.
The equine joint is made up of the articular cartilage, the synovial fluid (joint fluid) and the soft tissue structures that hold the joint together (capsule and ligaments). The articular cartilage and the synovial fluid are very important:
The synovial fluid contains two main components. The first is the fluid part. It is produced from filtrated blood plasma. The second component is hyaluronic acid. It is produced by cells of the synovial lining of the joint capsule. The joint fluid acts as a shock absorber, decreases friction, supplies oxygen and nutrients to the chondrocytes, and removes waste.
When these is stress or wear and tear on these structures, inflammation develops. The inflammatory factors degrade the structures and quality of the cartilage and joint fluid. Normally, the joint is able to respond by producing new joint fluid and cartilage cells. If this process is overwhelmed, then permanent damage can occur, thus producing an unhealthy and sometimes painful joint.
What can a horse owner do?
Does Joint Supplementation Really Work?
What Ingredients should I Look for in a Joint Supplement?
Chondroitin Sulfate has been shown to decrease swelling in joints. It acts by decreasing the amount of destructive enzymes in the joints. It can also decrease certain biomarkers of inflammation in synovial fluid. As a component of proteoglycans, it is a building block of cartilage. It works synergistically with glucosamine.
Glucosamine is a natural compound found in healthy cartilage. It is a precursor in the production of proteoglycans in the cartilage matrix and synovial fluid. Glucosamine is believed to strengthen cartilage. It is constantly broken down and resynthesized in normal joints. Works synergistically with Chondroitin Sulfate.
Hyaluronic Acid (HA) is a main part of the make-up of synovial fluid and articular cartilage. It increases the lubrication of the soft tissue structures in the joint and increases the viscosity of joint fluid, while decreasing inflammation in the joint by scavenging free radicals. Supplementation may induce the body to product more of its own HA.
Methylsulfonlmethane (MSM) contains sulfur in a form that the body can use. Sulfur is necessary for the formation of collagen, glucosamine, and chondroitin, all components of cartilage. It may also decrease pain and inflammation.
Many products use combinations of Chondroitin, Glucosamine, HA, and MSM to provide all the necessary building blocks:
Extra Flex HA
Farnam Max Flex XR
Other products are made with Green Lipped Mussels (Perna Canaliculus) that provide GAGs; Vitamin C, an antioxidant that scavenges free radicals; Maganese, needed to make joint fluid and cartilage; and anti-inflammatories such as Yucca.
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