The health of a horse’s bones determines its athletic performance and lifespan, so horse owners and trainers need an effective care routine to keep the animals in good health condition. Moreover, horse movements mostly exert pressure on the cartilage which is prone to wear and tear because it continually provides support for bones around a joint. Horses therefore need a combination of joint supplements to protect and improve their health.
A new study in equestrian health found that supplement ingredients have new potential benefits for old, injured, and overactive horses, especially those taking antibiotics. Although previous studies show that horses are fed oral medications to keep them sound and comfortable, there has been no scientifically proven evidence to support the efficacy of those supplements. This knowledge gap has been filled by systematic theories from a recent study which suggests that using a mix of three particular ingredients can reduce the negative impact of antibiotics in horse cells, and more importantly, improve the animals’ joint health.
Research on the effects of antibiotics on a horse’s joints
Veterinary doctors inject antibiotics into a horse through its legs. The two drug administration methods are: intravenous regional limb perfusion which requires injecting medications into the horse’s vein for precautionary or remedial treatment of lacerations and/or infections in a particular leg; and Intra-articular injection that entails administering drugs directly into a weak, wounded or infected joint.
It is, however, a common practice among vets that needles should not be inserted in a germ-free environment of horse joints when there’s a need to administer drugs such as steroids or hyaluronic acid—which increases the chance of infections. To reduce or completely avoid such health risks, professional veterinarians usually add a small dose of antibiotics to substances injected in horses. This preventive health measure, unfortunately, presents other challenges.
The research involving scientists from Nutramax Laboratories Incorporated, Mississippi State University, and Michigan State University aimed at finding how antibiotics negatively affect joint health. Further, the study objectives include: (i) to ascertain the effectiveness of avocado and soybean unsaponifiables (ASU) made from avocado and soybean oils and; (ii) to examine the new potentials of cartilage components—chondroitin sulphate and glucosamine. The sample population comprises of 12 healthy horses which provided cartilage cells (also known as chondrocytes) from their knee joints.
Two different antibiotics were used—at very high concentrations—to test the health of chondrocytes. Soon after such medications were administered at increasingly higher levels comparable to the normal dosage usually injected to treat horses’ joint problems, researchers found that the animals’ cartilage cells deteriorated. The number of dead cells in the joint area increased as more antibiotics mixture were injected.
Supplement ingredients and their effects on joint health
Findings from the study proved that when chondrocytes were exposed to antibiotics, they produce prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) – a substance which easily breaks down cartilage by inhibiting the synthesis of cartilage building blocks. This interaction results in the death of cartilage cells and inflammation of horse joints thereby causing pain, discomfort, and difficulty movements.
The scientists found that a combination of chondroitin sulphate, glucosamine and ASU has an effect on PGE2 levels in chondrocytes that have been exposed to antibiotics. Results also show that the three supplements significantly lowered PGE2 production levels that were previously stimulated by administering antibiotics.
On this backdrop, the researchers agreed that chondroitin sulphate, glucosamine and ASU—the major ingredients in Cosequin® ASU Plus and Cosequin® ASU—can help to reduce the negative impact of antibiotics in equine joints. These findings therefore support claims that a combination of horse supplements have the potentials to improve joint health and reduce the effects of inflammatory mediators that are capable of destroying a horse’s cartilage.