Over the past five years, vet Stephen Ashdown has written many
articles, spoken on equine matters and contributed widely to horse
Here he reproduces
in the form of questions and answers about 100 topics, all of
them common problems which afflict horses.
Topics click on Vet Advice Menu.
Q Can you help me with my arthritic mare, Betty, a 20-year old,
14.2hh Welsh Cob? A couple of months ago she went slightly lame
on her near fore and X-rays confirmed arthritis at the top of her
given bute and I was told that I could ride her, but only quietly.
However, I have a number of worries about Betty. Is it really fair
to continue riding her (at present I am sticking to gentle walks,
which she seems to enjoy)? Should I retire her and get another horse
to hack - if so, will Betty need some walking in-hand as well as
the exercise she gives herself at grass? Finally, is it really safe
to continue giving her bute? She has a sachet every day but I understand
that it can be harmful in the long-term, so I am also giving her
devil's claw and yucca. Are there any other herbal or homoeopathic
supplements that I could use to replace the bute?
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answer to your query depends to some extent on what type of arthritis
your mare has. Arthritis is a general term for any inflammation
(soreness) in the joints.
In many cases
of such disease a little exercise is useful to help joints work
normally ( based on the premise of 'use it, or lose it!') and you
will have to rely on the advice given by your own vet who has seen
her X-rays. Phenyllbutazone, commonly known as 'bute', is a frequently
used drug in the aspirin family: it reduces joint inflammation and
pain. Bute is useful in the short term but it can have side effects,
such as an increase on joint wear and tear over time, as well as
irritating the lining of the bowels.
My usual approach
to treating non-specific arthritis is to use supplements that will
help to strengthen bone and cartilage (eg. comfrey and specific
formulas), a joint lubricant formula, a glucosamine-type product - and perhaps ginger or frankincense,
both of which, I find, have a better soothing effect than devil's
claw or yucca.
Information on Arthritis
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