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Magnetic Therapy and Arthritis In Horses

Updated on April 29, 2013

Arthritis is a degenerative joint disease - most often thought of as a human ailment, it is also quite common in horses and can often finish their competitive lives. It starts by the synovial fluid surrounding the joints thinning which causes the cartilage to break down. In time this results in the bones grinding against one another, causing pain. Arthritis can be present in any joint and is ususally caused by injury, abnormal growth and in some cases, it can be hereditary. Conformational faults can predispose a horse to arthritis due to uneven cartilage wear and so can overworking unfit horses.

Arthritis is more common in horses over 15 years of age as the production of cartilage does not equal that of the wear and tear. Warning signs of arthritis can be swelling and heat in joint(s), stiffness and/or alteration in the animal''s way of going. There may also be obvious signs of lameness. The diagnosis should be made by a veterinary surgeon who will observe the horse’s action and possibly arrange scans, x-rays and other diagnostic tests.

Depending on the severity of the arthritis, various pain relief options are available and it is advisable to discuss the way forward with the vet. These options can include “Bute” (an anti-inflammatory only available from vet), herbal remedies, glucosamine and chondroitin products (to help with cartilage repair etc.), cider vinegar and many others - arthritis cannot be reversed, it is the result of damage or “wear and tear”.

Magnetic therapy can also be considered in the care of arthritic horses. Magnets have been used for many years (as described in Magnetic Therapy and Equine Tendon Injury). Magnetic therapy is more widely accepted in the horse world these days and is often routinely used in racing and competition yards for general health and well-being, as well as for pain relief and accelerated healing.

Magnets can be used to improve the circulation and decrease blood toxin levels. This increase in circulation to injured or painful areas can help the natural defence systems deal with pain and healing.

In the treatment of arthritis there are various options in the choice of equipment available – boots, wraps, collars and rugs for example. Magnetic therapy encompasses the whole circulatory system so which you choose is pretty much a matter of personal taste. It is thought that the nearer the magnet is to the injury or ailment the better the effect, so often boots or wraps are the answer as many arthritis cases are affected in the joints of the legs, (knees, hocks, fetlocks).

Whatever equipment you choose should only be used for a few hours a day and not during exercise. Magnets stimulate the circulatory system and could exacerbate overheating during exercise, definitely not good for horses’ health! There is also the risk that should an injury occur, blood loss could be increased due to the effect on the circulation.

I imagine that some will be doubtful about the use of magnetic therapy but it is worth remembering that a horse (or any animal) does not understand what the magnets are being used for, so they cannot subconsciously influence the overall effect (i.e. placebo effect). Many animals that have undergone magnetic therapy show significant improvement.

NOTES: In the UK any therapist outside of the veterinary profession should have the veterinary surgeon's consent before starting any treatment on other peoples animals. It is recommended that anyone using magnetic therapy on their own horse should consult their vet in the first instance to ensure there are no reasons that magnets cannot be used.

If you have a pacemaker, any electrical implant, recent fracture, open wounds or are pregnant you should not use magnets. If in doubt contact your Doctor in the first instance.


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