Joint Supplements: Work Your Way Up

Since our first looks at joint nutraceuticals in July 1994 and November 1997, the available choices for horses combating arthritis have become nearly overwhelming. That’s why our field trials, which are done on real horses under everyday conditions, have proven valuable tools for so many readers. We know what worked the quickest and the best in our barns.

It seemed simpler just a few years ago when the product choices were basically different brands of glucosamine or chondroitin sulfate. Now, the number of ingredients has increased substantially as well, including oral hyaluronic acid, herbals and sea products. So many new choices have appeared that we’ve done three field trials on different joint products in the last two years.

When we finished these trials, the obvious question was how do the new products compare to the old products’ Should readers choose our original joint-product recommendation, Grand Flex, or opt for a new-age product, combining hyaluronic acid with a host of other ingredients’

Well, newer isn’t always better, although it is usually more expensive. With our “back to the basics” philosophy in mind, we’re bringing this vast array of options into perspective to help you decide where to start and when to move on in choosing a joint product for your horse.

Joint Supplements
It’s important to remember that, just because a product performs well in the latest field trial, that doesn’t necessarily mean we’ve stopped recommending the products that came before it. Most of our joint-product field trials are now set up by ingredient categories to help us compare similar products in a more apples-to-apples manner. Meanwhile, our “old” favorites, Grand Flex and Corta-Flx, continue to provide excellent relief from arthritis symptoms to many horses.

If you’ve decided it’s time to try a joint nutraceutical or need a change of therapy, we suggest you:

• Don’t feel compelled to go for the newest, priciest product first. We’d start with Grand Flex or Corta-Flx. In fact, most glucosamine or glucosamine-combination products are good choices. It may be cost-effective to check what is available to you locally first to avoid shipping costs, then consult our back issues to see how the product performed. Our top picks combine the best performances in our field trials with a consideration of price, but we do not include any shipping costs in the decision because they will vary.

The liquid Corta-Flx works a little faster than Grand Flex, but the powdered Grand Flex is an especially good choice if you feed Western-states alfalfa, as its added minerals are well balanced for that. (Grand Flex recently released a water-soluble product you can add water to.)

• If your basic joint product doesn’t provide enough relief, consider adding hyaluronic acid. You may find that hyaluronic acid (HA) gives your horse the added “ummph” he needs. From the start, we had incredible results with oral HA, using Conquer, a paste product from Kinetic Technologies. Now other similar products have emerged to give you some price-shopping advantages. In addition, some products have added HA into the mix.

If we wanted to try HA, we’d continue using our regular product and then buy some oral paste HA to see if it has an effect on our horse. If it did, we’d switch to a daily nutraceutical that already includes HA.

Hyaluronic acid in combination with other joint nutraceuticals enhanced the arthritis-relief effects at much lower doses (20 mg/day) than you might expect, as in Chondrogen EQ ( 877-786-9882). You can also consider adding low-dose HA to your current joint nutraceutical by using a powdered HA product.

• Don’t skip the loading dose. Always use the full recommended loading dose of your product for at least two weeks. Your horse needs that initial course of a loading dose because many ingredients will initially be used to tie up destructive enzymes as well as provide raw materials for repair. Once the balance has shifted to rebuilding rather than breaking down, you may be able to drop to maintenance. While technically you can “load” the horse by giving him maintenance doses as well, it will take far longer to reach the effective doses, and it’s a waste of time. Our recommended loading doses per day are:

• Glucosamine 9 to 10 grams
• Chondroitin sulfates 7.5 grams
• Hyaluronic acid 100 to 200 mg

Bute Alternatives
As effective as glucosamine, chondroitin and hyaluronic acid are, sometimes you need a more direct effect on pain and inflammation. Phenylbutazone is an inexpensive, extremely effective drug, but it has a variety of side effects that make it a poor choice for long-term use. We’d only use it in acute situations.

For added pain relief on a long-term basis, we suggest an herbal “bute alternative” as it offers what we believe is a safer long-term choice in terms of side effects. Our first choices in herbals are:

• Devil’s Claw Plus ( 800-248-0330) includes devil’s claw, yucca, boswellia and other herbal ingredients. Results are usually seen in one to two days. It has a molasses base for palatability.

• B-L Solution ( 800-838-7524) contains yucca and devil’s claw in a liquid suspension. It is usually effective within 24 hours. Dosage may be increased safely to achieve desired effects on swelling and pain.

• Equu-Sea ( 800-732-8072) is made of sea chondroitin (prepared from sea cucumber extract), kelp and low-dose MSM. It’s a bit pricey but an effective analgesic and anti-inflammatory in both acute and chronic conditions. The acute effect takes a few days to kick in. For a sea-based product, it’s quite palatable.

Bottom Line
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the latest and greatest supplement or device for dealing with arthritis. However, it’s a difficult condition to manage, and there is no single magic bullet. It takes some trial and error.

Start simple and work your way up. We believe two of the best first choices are Grand Flex and Corta-Flx. In fact, if your horse is doing well on one of these products — or anything else — we wouldn’t change.

If one of these products doesn’t bring you the results you want, it’s time to move up to another product that includes additional ingredients, such as HA. Give each product at least a couple weeks before determining if it makes a difference.

Also With This Article
Click here to view ”ManagingArthritis.”
Click here to view ”Top Joint Product Choices.”
Click here to view ”For Additional Product Information.”
Click here to view ”Additional Arthritis Relief.”

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