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Frequency of Joint Injections in Horses
Bob Judd, DVM, DABVP (Equine Medicine), DABVP (Canine and Feline Practice)

Date Published: 02/06/2024
Horse and rider go over a red and white pole jump

Most joint injections are used to treat arthritis and are commonly given to performance horses. It seems the frequency of these injections is open to debate. Erin Contino, DVM, Dipl. ACVSMR, says in the publication The Horse that many veterinarians are hesitant to inject joints too frequently, but frequency depends on the practitioner. 

Arthritis Treatment

Arthritis damages cartilage and bone, which leads to inflammation. The purpose of injecting the joint is to relieve pain and lameness. There are multiple options for treating arthritis, including oral and systemic injections for pain and inflammation. Research has shown that triamcinolone, one of the medications commonly injected into joints, can protect the cartilage to some degree. 

Other Treatment Options

Although cortisone is the most common medication used in arthritic joints, there are many others, including regenerative therapy like platelet-rich plasma and stem cells. Hyaluronic acid can be injected into joints and is commonly injected along with cortisone. Shock wave therapy has also been used in treating arthritic joints.

There is no standard on how often to inject a horse’s joints, but some veterinarians try to limit joint injections to twice a year. However, you can have too much of a good thing.

If the injections are effective for a shorter and shorter period, your horse's arthritis is likely worsening, and the injections are no longer effective. Again, there is no scientifically proven time interval, but if you have to have your horse’s joints injected more than twice a year, it is likely other treatments should be considered. 

Many trainers and owners want their horse’s joints injected on a routine basis for maintenance. Because there is always the chance of joint infection with an injection, horses should only be injected when they have a diagnosed problem in a joint.    

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