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Study Finds Oral Hyaluronic Acid Helps Horse Joint Post-Op Healing

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Oral administration of hyaluronic acid (HA) may help improve healing in horses after arthroscopic surgery for joint disease, according to researchers at Oregon State University. In the study reported in the July issue of the Equine Veterinary Journal, 48 yearling Thoroughbreds (57 joints) received oral HA or placebo for 30 days after surgery for osteochondritis dissecans (OCD) lesions.

"Based on our results, it was clear that those horses treated with oral HA post-operatively had much less swelling and seemed to return to a normal clinical appearance faster than those treated with placebo," said Brady Bergin, DVM, assistant professor, Oregon State University.

The horses were divided into two groups: Group 1 received 100 mg of HA once a day, and Group 2 received a placebo. At the 30-day exam, horses were graded by the synovial effusion by size of the OCD lesion (the lower the number the better). Group 1 had an average score of 0.67, and Group 2 scored 2.05. Oral HA showed benefit over placebo for all joint lesions in all locations, according to the researchers.

HA is a glycosaminoglycan found in skin, cartilage, vitreous humor of the eye and in joint synovial fluid. It is used intra-articularly (in the joint) for both humans and horses in the treatment of joint disease. Additionally, it has been used intravenously in horses.

According to the researchers, "OCD is a growth disorder within the developmental orthopedic disease complex and is considered a manifestation of osteochondritis." The surgery they performed is to prevent degenerative joint disease. Intra-articular HA has been used for more than 30 years in horses. It is found to reduce lameness associated with joint disease. Oral HA has only been in use for 4 years.

Bergin noted that oral HA gives a horse owner a good option for joint health care because it is "natural, safe and effective." He explained that although oral HA can be a supplement to other therapy for arthritis and lameness, a horse owner should consult his or her veterinarian first to determine the horse's treatment plan.

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