Osteoarthritis is the most common degenerative joint disease and is characterized by a break down in the ability of the cartilage and synovial fluid to effectively cushion and lubricate the joint during movement. This breakdown can be triggered by a genetic event or physical trauma to the joint.

This disruption causes excessive production of abnormal cartilage which is stiff and brittle and may progress without obvious clinical signs over a long period of time, starting when a genetic or physical trigger causes excessive production of abnormal cartilage. The cartilage loses the ability to compress and flatten to effectively disperse movement forces and therefore begins to crack. Furthermore, the joint detects the abnormal cartilage and begins to break it down faster than it can be regenerated.

There is now an overall decrease in cartilage quality and quantity.

Over time, cartilage fragments break off and trigger the immune system. The immune system responds by releasing inflammatory mediators that cause pain and swelling of the joint in an attempt to immobilize the horse, protect the joint from further damage and commence the healing process. Unfortunately, the inflammatory mediators can actually cause further damage to articular surfaces.

Treatment can require long term therapy and even surgery. When signs of the disease appear, your veterinarian can prescribe a joint care program specifically tailored to your horse’s situation.

healthy cartilage
diseased cartilage