Nearly 75 Percent Of Veterinarians Concerned That Frequent Injections Could Cause Joint Damage - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report
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Nearly 75 Percent Of Veterinarians Concerned That Frequent Injections Could Cause Joint Damage

Joint inflammation and osteoarthritis (OA) are common issues in competition horses. These conditions often lead to decreased performance and lameness.

Veterinarians can treat OA via joint injections, which involve placing drugs directly into the joint capsule. Some drugs commonly used include corticosteroids, polysulfated glycosaminoglycans, and hyaluronic acid. Biologic therapies like platelet-rich plasma (PRP) and stem cells can also be used. 

Vets determine which drugs to use and how often to administer them based on their clinical experience; this is often guided by anecdotal evidence rather than scientific findings. This lack of direct comparisons between treatment options means there are no guidelines for how often a joint should be injected – or for which treatment is best. 

The AAEP surveyed its membership in 2019 to better understand how vets were administering joint injections. The results were presented at the 2021 AAEP Annual Convention. Dr. Gustavo Zanotto of Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and Dr. David Frisbie, of Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine co-authored the study. 

The survey had 407 vet respondents, many of whom worked with Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racehorses, as well as Warmbloods. The duo determined that nearly 75 percent of vets were concerned that treating equine joints too frequently would damage the articular cartilage. 

The majority of vets said that the joints can be injected every 6 months, while 30 percent said that the joints can be injected every 3 months. 

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Triamcinolone and methylprednisolone were the drugs most often injected into both high- and low-motion joints, respectively. Nearly three-quarters of the vets believed that triamcinolone contributes to laminitis, though there is no research to support that this drug increases laminitis risk in healthy horses. 

Over 55 percent of vets said they used an antibiotic when injecting joints, an increase since a study asked the same question in 2009. The main reasons treating veterinarians cite for antibiotics use is poor environmental conditions and the use of corticosteroid injections. This is concerning as the veterinary field continues to battle antibiotic resistance, Zanotto said. Currently, there is no evidence that corticosteroid joint injections increase the risk of infection or that the environment in which joints are injected contribute to infection.

Though joint injections are common, there is a lack of evidence-based guidelines regarding their frequency or recommended doses. 

Read more at Veterinary 33. 

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