I mentioned a couple of posts ago that My Boy had been off at the trot the past few weeks. I had a suspicion of what was going on as I could not detect an apparent injury, heat, or swelling. But I am not a vet and I wanted her to check him out and make recommendations for treatment.
After a lameness flex test, she rated My Boy a grade 3/5 on his left hind. A year and a half-ago, I had a chiropractor check him out, which you can read about here. At that time, he was a grade 1/5 on that hind, with stiffness in both hind hocks and in the left fetlock. I opted not to do x-rays at this time. My vet said that typically the x-rays would just confirm what we'd be treating anyway. If the treatments we try are not successful, then I will do x-rays.
The diagnosis is "presumed arthritis," the presumed meaning the best diagnosis based on past exam and current examination.I am going to admit something to you. I am an awful horse mother. I took my horse off his joint supplement this winter, as I was questioning whether it was really effective. It is so confusing, so many different brand names, different price points, different combination of ingredients and amounts....and none of it is regulated. How do you really know what you are putting into your horse? I suppose whether or not you notice an improvement or change in your horse's lameness or movement is one of the best ways to rate a supplement's effectiveness.
Now I am thinking that it had been helping him, since he's noticeably worse off of it. There are other factors too- winter weather affecting the joints, My Boy's poor hock build (very upright), former injuries on the left leg from when he was a yearling, lack of consistent exercise this winter, etc.All of these factors have combined to make a pretty sore horse. So what to do now?
The vet gave me several options. 1) Steroid joint injections. 2) Steroid joint injections plus something else called Hyisc. (I can't remember what this is?) 3) IRAP (click here to read more. It has something to do with removing a blood sample, treating it with a protein, then re-injecting it into the joint, working with the horse's own system. It sounds great, but costs $735 for 1st visit plus $250 for each additional visit. Yikes.) 4) Adequan injections. 5)Surpass (non-systemic) or bute to manage pain.
My Boy enjoying a few minutes of grazing after the verytraumatic lameness exam. If you know my horse, you know that being in the presence of anyone with a "DVM" after their name is very, very scary, indeed!
The vet didn't think my horse would be a good candidate for Adequan injections because they need to be done frequently- and he is such a nightmare about shots. And by nightmare I mean, nearly impossible without restraining, and if he even thinks you are restraining him for a needle, he won't let you restrain him. She said that recent studies have shown that a vial of Adequan every 4 days for a total of seven treatments, repeated every 6 months, has been most effective. That would be a nightmare month of needles for me and my horse.
For now, my horse is going back on joint supplement. I am going to try pure MSM. I want to see if that helps. I will also put him on a glucosamine/chondroitin, like he was previously. This spring, I am probably going to have him get steroid injections. The vet said this would probably help him through the spring/summer riding season. She also said that when used properly, I could bute him before long rides. I also have Surpass, a topical pain relief cream that you apply directly to the hock, that she said has good success. I have never tried it because I get nervous applying things to my horse's skin.
Arthritis is a pain. Literally. It is degenerative. At around age 15, horses stop producing synovial fluid, the lubricant inside their joints. When the fluid begins to lose its viscosity, joint friction and inflammation can occur (I just got this from the recent issue of Horse & Rider magazine, in an article on reining horses.)
However, arthritis is also manageable, and I will have to find a course of treatment that works for My Boy. He is a pleasure horse, we mostly trail ride, and I feel that I can manage his pain and help him enjoy out his years until retirement. I think he has many good years left in him, but I don't want him to be sore and hurting. That can cause a whole host of other problems, from compensating on other joints resulting in more soreness, irritability and behavior problems, etc.
On a bit of a positive note, we've been getting some beautiful February sunshine! It's been so warm in the sun....all the horses have been relaxing and soaking it up. Paint Girl's mares have their sunny spot by the cedar stumps, and even the goats wandered out of their barn to chew their cuds.
I tried to get My Boy to prick his ears toward me (I was back at the Mustang filly's pasture and zoomed in to get this shot) but he would have nothing to do with posing for me. Obviously, sun-drunk.
Do you have a horse with arthritis? What has worked for your horse? Any insight or recommendations you've gained, positive or negative, from your experience?As I am still weighing all of my different options, I would appreciate any advice you may have!