Osteoarthritis is a disease affecting all species and can affect almost any joint in the body. The condition affects up to 70% of the humans, upwards of 60% of pets dependent on breed and approximately 70% of horses dependent on age and use. It is a debilitating problem, causing not only pain and discomfort, but decreased range of motion, loss of use and decreased quality of life, not to mention decreased performance for the athlete. The question comes as to how to best manage this condition with our eyes set on prevention.
Eye conditions in the horse are extremely common, unfortunately, with many of them being traumatic in origin. The majority of equine eye or opthalmic conditions are considered emergencies not only due to potential loss of eye sight, but also due to potential secondary complications. Let’s review the most common conditions affecting the horse as well as some not so common situations, as well as discuss treatment options.
In today’s equine world, there is so much focus on joint health and conditioning, that we tend to forget about the bigger picture. As a veterinarian, I see so much over use, almost bordering on abuse, of various pharmaceutical medications and equine joint supplements. So many people use them, that at times, I wonder if we are actually trying to manage a condition or more so if the increased use is more to follow what another is doing, almost making it a trend without purpose. Now, I will be honest and say that many of these equine supplements and medications can prove useful in certain situations, but overall, I feel they are being overused at times, trying to accomplish things they were never intended to do.
Proper conformation in the horse is vital to athletic performance, but it doesn’t always have to be a limiting factor. In my years of practicing veterinary medicine and performing pre-purchase examinations, I have yet to encounter a ‘perfect’ horse in terms of conformation by book definition. Every horse is an individual with conformation often based on genetics passed on from dam or sire. We have to accept things for the way they are, understand that there will be some limitations but also that certain flaws will predispose more to injuries. We can try to minimize these occurrences, but an understanding as to why they happen is important.
Joint disease in the horse is the number one cause of ongoing lameness and a result of many factors including excessive or ongoing trauma, genetics, diet and lifestyle influences. Degeneration within the joint leads to cartilage erosion, remodeling of the joint, ongoing pain and reduced range of motion in more severe cases. It is a condition that is best prevented and managed in the early stages versus in the advanced stages.
Therapies for joint disease in the horse now includes joint injections with corticosteroids, hyaluronic acid, polysulfated glycosaminoglycans and over the past several years, there is a new kid on the block termed IRAP or Interleukin-1 Receptor Antagonist Protein. IRAP therapy is supposed to help manage the inflammation and joint deterioration more effectively through the use of the body’s own natural resources.
Stem cells are essentially specialized cells that have the ability to transform or differentiate into one of many different types of cells present within the body. That includes the potential ability to differentiate into cardiac, nerve, muscle, tendon, bone and many other types of cells.
I read the line “performance enhancing or performance restoring” as part of a quote from a regulatory veterinarian in a discussion regarding drug use in the equine industry. I like the line, because it helps to create potential criteria that determines a drug or herb’s potential use and implications. We all want to achieve the best, win that competition, but we have to ask what are we doing with these medications? Are we trying to enhance performance in an animal that may not be able to perform at the desired level, inherantly, or are we trying to restore performance to an animal that has become compromised to some degree?
It seems that for the past several years, you can’t turn on the TV or even talk to a small group of friends without the mention of the word “CANCER”. Either there is someone close that you know with cancer or they are making new discoveries regarding the pathology and process of the disease. It is everywhere, it seems, but there are several noteworthy things one can do to prevent or lower the risk of disease.
The whole goal of the field of medicine should be aimed at disease prevention, but unfortunately, most of the time is dedicated to disease management. I feel at times, even as a veterinarian, that if we spent more time with younger patients focusing on good life habits, we would reduce the incidence of disease. This is not done for several reasons, time being one of them, but also we have to keep in mind that profits are not as good for disease prevention as they are for disease management. Cancer is a huge, profit driven force that often times does not take the best interest of the patients into consideration. This is true whether if we are talking about people or animals.
Looking to enhance performane and recovery, while reducing the incidence of injury? It is possible, but one has to understand what processes are at work and how to intervene. Exercise is something that we are all told to increase in our daily lives, but unfortunately, many equate this to a 45 minute, hard core workout performed in a gym on a daily basis. Although this is true, it is not true in all situations. Exercise can be walking, working in the yard, working in the barn, doing house chores…the list goes on. In terms of horses, exercise can be a long turn out with running in the pasture, routine daily training as well as a hard run at a jumper course. It is good for us and them, as it improves cellular function and oxygen metabolism, but also helps to strengthen muscle, improve circulation, burn calories and just improve overall health. But there is a bad side…
Lyme disease is unfortunately a common condition affecting not only horses and pets, but also a major health problem for people. The disease is actually associated with a type of bacteria or spirochete, Borrellia burgdorferi, which is transmitted by either the deer tick, the blacklegged tick or the sheep tick, when feeding on the host. The ticks are very small in size and often go undetected, but rates of infection can often times be very high dependent on geography with the northeast United States being the highest region. The highest rates of infection generally occur from May to July due to the ticks being more active during this time. The rates of infection actually correlate with deer populations as the white tailed deer are the host for the adult stages of the tick.