Joint supplements of equines

Why Joint supplements of equines are important? A lame horse is of no use. Most of the horses get retired early if they face joint issues. Among joint issues, Osteoarthritis is a complex sequence of events leading to the degradation of articular cartilage and is the most common cause of lameness in horses.

There is no treatment for Osteoarthritis, and veterinarians mostly rely on anti-inflammatory drugs and corticosteroids in managing this issue. [1] One way to avoid this significant morbidity of equines is to take preventive measures before the problem arises.

Nutraceuticals, commonly known as oral joint supplements, are used nowadays to protect the horses’ degenerative common diseases. It is a growing industry in humans and veterinary practice as well. Chondroitin Sulfate and Glucosamine’s annual sale is around 600 million dollars and 50 million dollars in human consumption and veterinary industry, respectively. [2].

Several formulas of oral joint supplements are available in the market used for equines, including Glucosamine, Chondroitin Sulfate, Methylsulphonylmethane (MSM), Hyaluronic acid, Omega 3 fatty acids, Vitamin C, Collagen, Curcumin, and Piperine as active ingredients.

For a joint supplement to be effective, it must be absorbable into the bloodstream and reach the joints to exert its beneficial effects. Here is a brief discussion on how these ingredients work and their recommended adequate dosage levels.

Glucosamine (Joint supplements of equines)

Glucosamine is an integral part of the healthy articular cartilage as it helps in the formation of Glycosaminoglycan (GAGs). Providing oral joint supplements rich in Glucosamine to the equine patients, improvements in common issues have been seen in previous studies.

A study conducted by [3] revealed significant improvement in the horses provided with Glucosamine containing oral joint supplements by improving the flexion, lameness, and stride of 25 horses used in this trial.

  • Glucosamine is an effective therapy for degenerative joint diseases as studies reveal that it increases collagen type 2 production, which is an essential component of the cartilage matrix [4]
  • It helps to relieve pain in the joints.
  • It also contributes to the formation of Hyaluronic acid in synovial fluid [5]
  • Collagen degeneration in chondrocytes have been inhibited by Glucosamine by preventing protein oxidation [6]

The recommended dose of Glucosamine is 20mg/kg or 10g orally in a horse weighing an average of 500 kg. [7]

Equicare maxrelief glucosamine pellets

Chondroitin (Joint supplements of equines)

Chondroitin Sulfate serves as a structural part of connective tissue found in different body parts such as eye white, bones, and cartilage tissue. Chondroitin’s pain-relieving effect is little compared to Glucosamine, and most observations in various studies only indicated that the horses supplemented with Chondroitin feel ease in moving.

  • Recent studies on Chondroitin exhibited most of its benefits in preventing further breakdown of cartilage.
  • It controls the enzymes which are associated with the destruction of tissues and inflammation.
  • The recommended effective dose in equines is 1,250-5,000mg/day.

However, recent studies show that Glucosamine and Chondroitin’s combination exerts a synergistic effect and works better than administering each product separately. In combination supplements, either of the two products used will have a dose lesser than that mentioned above.

Equicare max flex chondroitin pellets

MSM (Joint supplements of equines)

Methylsulfonylmethane is a derivative of DMSO, which is an effective anti-inflammatory oral joint supplement when used at a dose rate of 20,000mg per day in equines. The health benefits specific to MSM used as a supplement include reducing inflammation, relief in joint pain, and reduction of oxidative stress.

However, the exact mechanism of action of this supplement is still not precise. It lacks definitive evidence as treatment of Osteoarthritis. Further research is required to find the exact effective dosage and safety of MSM as a supplement to avoid horses’ lameness. [8]

Finish line MSM

Select MSM

Hyaluronic acid

Before using Glucosamine and Chondroitin in equines, these products have a long history of use in human arthritis patients, but they also show promising results in horses. There is a list of many other supplements, out of which Hyaluronic acid is an important one. Hyaluronic acid is a part of synovial fluid and cartilage itself. Hyaluronic acid provides lubrication and viscosity to the synovial fluid.

Articular cartilage gets nourishment from Synovial fluid. Synovial fluid also protects the joints from wear and tear. Research shows that horses daily produce 30-160 milligrams of H.A., incorporating into cartilage and synovial fluid. But due to excessive exercise, inflammation occurs and causes the breakdown of H.A., which decreases the lubrication of joints. So supplementing H.A. is important in equines.

  • Hyaluronic acid helps in the normal development of cartilage and protects joints from deterioration by keeping the synovial fluid at normal levels.
  •  It was first used in the 1970s as an injectable, but recently it has become available in the market as an oral supplement to relieve pain and inflammation.
  • Hyaluronic acid in the supplemental form will help in the lubrication of joints with arthritis.

 The recommended effective dosage is 100mg/day.

Finish line fluid action HA

Omega 3

Plant oils and fish oils are a rich source of Omega 3 fatty acids. These fatty acids have long been recognized as an effective therapy for heart problems; they have also shown anti-inflammatory properties. Similar effects are seen in humans and animals regarding these anti-inflammatory properties of Omega 3 fatty acids such as EPA and DHA.

Seeds such as linseed and flaxseed are rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, and they are used as supplements for decades among racehorses. EPA and DHA reduce inflammation in both adult and young horses in arthritis.  Look for those supplements which contain these fatty acids on labels to get optimum health benefits for your horse.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is essential to maintain the excellent health of cartilage and connective tissues such as bones and joints. The horse synthesizes vitamin C on its own, so great care should be taken while supplementing horses with Vitamin C. If given in excess, it can even damage the cartilage. Studies to back the health benefits of Vitamin C on equines are not available. Still, in humans, 4,000mg per day is an effective dose that could be too high for equines as they can manufacture Vitamin C in their bodies.

Also, keep in mind the feed of your horse; if a horse is on green pasture feeding, it would already take up 1,000 to 2000 mg per day of Vitamin C from grass. Vitamin C scavenges free radicals present in high levels in inflamed joints, thus causing damage to Collagen and proteoglycans. Vitamin C helps to decline these free radicals and protect the Collagen. No data is available about the recommended dosage of Vitamin C in supplements of horses.


All the body’s connective tissues, such as joints and bones, consist of a structural framework made up of Collagen protein. Collagen can be broken down into smaller proteins for better digestion and absorption, called hydrolyzed Collagen, which naturally contains hyaluronic acid, Chondroitin, and Glucosamine.

Most recently, this hydrolyzed form of Collagen has been reported to serve as a treatment of arthritis in addition to other health benefits such as ulcer and wound healing. However, to get these benefits, Collagen’s dosage must be high in humans and equines, with the most services at the dose rate as high as 40,000mg per day.


Curcumin is the active ingredient found in turmeric, has a yellow color, is scientifically known as diferuloylmethane, and possesses huge health benefits, including anti-inflammatory properties, anti-oxidative, and pain reliever in humans and animals equally.  

The mechanism that helps Curcumin act as a pain reliever is inhibiting the Cyclooxygenase-2 enzyme while keeping Cyclooxygenase-1 active. COX-2 inhibition helps to reduce pain. Most studies on these properties of Curcumin have been done on humans. Recent studies by [9] predicted that Curcumin significantly reduces the inflammatory effects and can help as a therapeutic agent in Osteoarthritic horses.

The safe dose for humans is 12 g per day for three months but is intended for longer; this amount should be 500mg/day. In the case of equines, 1/4th tablespoon per day is safe as a maintenance dose.


Piperine is a black pepper extract, most commonly used combined with Curcumin in most joint supplements available commercially. Both of these compounds possess anti-inflammatory properties and help relieve pain in lameness and Osteoarthritis. One such supplement single commercially is AllinFlex which contains organic turmeric and piperine in combination. The recommended daily dosage is one tablespoon, both in the morning and evening, for a 500kg horse.

While choosing the equine joint supplements, the best approach is to read each supplement’s labels to find the active ingredient in the appropriate amount it claims. The dosages of each ingredient mentioned above give the best results when used alone; the doses will vary if these ingredients are used in combinations. In that case, they will work synergistically.

Supplements used in equines are similar in formulations to those used in human practice, but extensive research is required to compare humans’ effective dosages if they work at the same rate in equines. This could only be possible by applying in vivo long-term research trials to see the effects.

The results of previously conducted research trials also pose a contradiction that oral joint supplements work in equines or not. Some trials indicated a positive impact while some showed no significant result, but this could be due to the small sample size and the conditions in which research trials were conducted.

However, this industry has become a billion-dollar industry in veterinary practice nowadays despite all the above facts. It provides a sense of contentment to the owners that they are giving something good to their horses.


1.            Brommer, H., P.R.v. Weeren, and P.A. Brama, New approach for quantitative assessment of articular cartilage degeneration in horses with Osteoarthritis. 2003.

2.            Hungerford, D.S. and L.C. Jones, Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are effective in the management of Osteoarthritis. The Journal of arthroplasty, 2003. 18(3): p. 5-9.

3.            Hanson, R.R., et al., Oral treatment with a glucosamine-chondroitin sulfate compound for degenerative joint disease in horses: 25 cases. Equine Practice, 1997. 19: p. 16-22.

4.            Lippiello, L., Collagen synthesis in tenocytes, ligament cells and chondrocytes exposed to a combination of glucosamine HCl and chondroitin sulfate. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2007. 4.

5.            Uitterlinden, E., et al., Glucosamine increases hyaluronic acid production in human osteoarthritic synovium explants. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, 2008. 9(1): p. 120.

6.            Tiku, M.L., et al., Glucosamine prevents in vitro collagen degradation in chondrocytes by inhibiting advanced lipoxidation reactions and protein oxidation. Arthritis research & therapy, 2007. 9(4): p. R76.

7.            Wright, I., Oral supplements in the treatment and prevention of joint diseases: a review of their potential application to the horse. Equine Veterinary Education, 2001. 13(3): p. 135-139.

8.            Brien, S., et al., Systematic review of the nutritional supplements dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) and methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) in the treatment of Osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis and Cartilage, 2008. 16(11): p. 1277-1288.

9.            Clutterbuck, A.L., et al., Interleukin‐1β–Induced Extracellular Matrix Degradation and Glycosaminoglycan Release Is Inhibited by Curcumin in an Explant Model of Cartilage Inflammation. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 2009. 1171(1): p. 428.

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