Arthritis in horses – what you need to know

Arthritis in horses – what you need to know

Arthritis in horses causes irreversible damage to the cartilage and joints. However, not all equine arthritis diagnoses are equal. With early treatment and ongoing management, it is possible to give your arthritic horse a good quality of life.

Gaining an understanding of arthritis in horses is important for all horse owners. A term used to describe inflammation in the joints, there are several types of equine arthritis, ranging from acute to chronic joint conditions.

In this article, we discuss what every horse owner should know about equine arthritis, from diagnosis to treatment and management.

Arthritis in Horses

There are three main types of arthritis in horses, including osteoarthritis, infectious arthritis and traumatic arthritis.

The first is a chronic condition and the other two are acute conditions, which may become chronic if treated improperly. Arthritis in horses typically afflicts the knees, hocks, and fetlocks – the leg joints.

It is for this reason that any diagnosis of equine arthritis is concerning. Not only do horses require healthy leg joints to stand for 20 or more hours per day, but these intricate structures are involved in every athletic feat your horse performs.

Within your horse’s joints, articular cartilage, composed of collagen fibers, provides cushioning to the ends of the bones. Inside the collagen are proteoglycans that trap water and act as a shock-absorber when the joint endures concussive forces.

All three types of equine arthritis cause the deterioration of articular cartilage, resulting in pain and stiffness that can be severe.


The onset of arthritis in horses is usually accompanied by swelling of the joint capsule. An arthritic horse may experience pain when the offending joint is flexed and appear stiff or lame at the walk or trot.

In chronic cases, joint mobility is noticeably reduced, and older arthritic horses may have difficulty standing after lying down. In acute cases, such as following injury, the inflamed joint may feel warm to the touch.


Treating arthritis in horses varies depending on the severity of the condition. Treatment may involve stall rest, short-term use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), surgery or a combination of therapies.

Our range of joint health supplements provide targeted support following a joint injury or surgery. Endorsed by equine surgeons and veterinarians, 4CYTE™ Epiitalis® Forte Horse are recommended for all arthritic horses.


Arthritic horses can lead healthy and happy lives with ongoing management. The aim is to promote an active lifestyle without aggravating their condition. Your veterinarian will help you devise an appropriate management plan that includes:

  • Exercise – regular light to moderate exercise is vital for healthy joints.
  • Footing – use cushioned surfaces in your horse’s stall, yard, and arena.
  • Turnout – ideally daily, turnout offers your horse freedom of movement.
  • Body weight – feed and exercise your horse to maintain a healthy body weight.
  • Hoof care – trim your horse’s hooves every 4-6 weeks to minimize joint strain.
  • Supplement – support your arthritic horse by feeding 4CYTE™ Epiitalis® Forte Horse, which help to stimulate cartilage production and maintain healthy joint function, including post-surgery or injury.
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