Short term topical treatments to help ward off arthritis pain- what's worked for you?

Coming-27 (eek) horse had a hard weekend here in the mid-Atlantic. On Friday afternoon it was around 50 and sunny; on Saturday it snowed 4 inches and then blustered with gale force winds and a real feel of 0; and Sunday dawned sunny and chilly. Horse was out in his three-sided shelter with his 4 buddies and 2 hay rolls between them. But he came in quite sore in his hocks. Barn staff mentioned that he walked in stiff, and when I got to the barn about an hour after turn-in and breakfast, he was subdued and didn’t want to move around his stall. He nickered for his treats and did his carrot stretches with gusto, was very insistent about getting his neck scratched, and had licked his breakfast dish clean, but when I went to muck his stall he was reluctant to move about the cabin and preferred to pivot on his back legs rather than articulate the hocks.

I put his magnetic hock boots on for about 20 minutes, did some massage over his haunches and gaskin, and gave him a good full-body curry and brisk brush. This encouraged him to walk around his stall and start eating his hay, and was also enough to let him pick up his hind feet comfortably. I applied diclofenac gel liberally and left him to demolish his hay pile. I came back again in the afternoon, applied more diclofenac gel, and hand-walked for about 20 minutes, punctuated by levitation and impromptu longeing when snow came off the roof of the indoor… which did flex the hocks, so there’s that.

Granted that the conditions were pretty miserable but this is the first time he’s had such a pronounced reaction to cold and damp. I’m not sure if he did not lie down overnight because his hocks hurt, or he did not lie down for another reason and that made his hocks hurt, but I don’t think he went down on Saturday and that needn’t become a habit. Although I hope we’re done for the season, I’d like to have some better options in my back pocket for next time to help him spend a more comfortable night. Thinking preventatively, I’m not sure if Surpass is the right answer to ward off pain- knowing that the trigger is cold/damp, I think I want to promote blood flow, not inhibit it. Am I thinking about that the right way? Liniment gels offer a temporary heating sensation but it always seems very short-lasting.

So: I’m seriously considering using Elastikon to tape a ThermaCare patch to my horse’s hock the next time it’s 0 degrees. Somebody has to have a better idea. :slight_smile: What has worked for you to ease arthritis pain in difficult conditions?

Horse’s abridged life story: turns 27 on Thursday this week, serviceably sound but semi-retired, working walk hacks 3x/week and 20-30 minutes light flatwork 2x/week. Turnout 12-16 hours/day in winter, 4 congenial friends, unless weather keeps them in the shed they all move around in a big rolling field. Hocks fused around age 18. Lives on Previcox, MSM, and SmartStride Ultra, W3 oil for omega-3 support, IV polyglycan as needed. Has a phenomenal farrier, DVM chiropractor as needed, owner reasonably competent at amateur horse massage. Wants to know why I won’t get on winning the lotto so he can summer in Vermont and winter in Southern Pines!

Surpass is my vet’s go-to topical for pain relief/reduction of swelling.

I’ve got a tibiotalar joint OCD myself, and diclofenac does help with inflammation that comes from being cold and stiff (as well as for other reasons), so I don’t think what you did was a bad thing. I’m not sure how to keep the joints warm while he’s out in snow. There are things like BOT hock boots, but I don’t think I’d want to use them in the field, much less a wet one. Could he stay in the barn when temps are that low?

I’d probably talk to the vet about whether he is a candidate for a double-NSAID on those awful days. Sometimes a single dose of bute is enough to keep them moving. It’s also stick with Surpass.

The IceVibe hock boots can be used warm, so that is another option - but I wouldn’t want him turned out in those either.

My vet has told me to just use bute on top of his equioxx whenever there’s an issue. It certainly shouldn’t be done long term, but every once in a while is fine.

Also, the coldest weather I have ever had to endure in horse keeping happened in southern pines so you might have to go further south in your dreams :rofl: it was actual temp 0 degrees.

Thanks for the input! I will be talking with his vet at his spring physical about the most effective way to stack NSAIDs- if she thinks that targeted Surpass + daily Previcox is the right way or adding a gram of bute. I wasn’t proactive about getting Surpass on the hocks on Saturday and that might be the first thing to try next year.

@IPEsq I have thought about leaving him in. He and his codependent platonic life partner both prefer to be outside horses and even on foul nights will usually mount a protest if they think turnout is being delayed. Several times this winter they’ve been the only two horses on the farm who have gone outside, and everyone seemed satisfied by the arrangement! The second reason I haven’t shifted him to inside at night is that he can lie down more comfortably outdoors. He can lie down in his stall if I bank the walls significantly- he uses the bank to get up. But he gave up his indoor midday naps several years ago. I might reconsider this on the really rough nights next winter, depending on how well I can help him stay comfortable. This is the first time he’s really had a problem, including in comparison to other unpleasant nights this year.

I would think that for an arthritic horse, any benefit of being inside out of the weather would be counteracted by losing his usual ability to keep moving around?

With vet approval, I would try Surpass and/or a double dose of Equioxx before and during bad weather. The relief of arthritis pain is exactly what Surpass is approved for in horses so I think your instincts were good! Maybe just get ahead of it next time, now that you know it’s an issue for him.

Fingers crossed that was our last snow of the year. It certainly feels like spring here today!

I agree; that commercial I alway see late at night comes to mind ‘a body in motion stays in motion’.

I do stall mine in at night in the winter if it’s raining or if it’s less than 30 degrees at night, but that’s mainly because I have 2 extremely wimpy horses. I also did when we got that snow a few days ago, but that’s mostly because I’ve got several horses that already shed the majority of their winter coat.

I’d also think that, and that’s another reason he and his platonic life partner are outside horses- but on a really foul night like last Saturday, I figure he probably wasn’t moving around all that much. Outside of perhaps some shuffling around the hay roll to take a better bite, everybody was probably in the shed and not leaving. Mine can be relied upon to be the only one grazing outside the shed when it’s 40 and raining sideways but even he thought Saturday was a bit much! So I do think that with driving wind and precipitation this particular calculus nulls out.

I hope we are done with all this. He very much enjoyed grinding his naked neck into the dirt in turnout last night, wearing just his sheet instead of two rugs.

Right, I was thinking he probably didn’t move much and was cold so if you could fix one of those things on the rare occasion by bringing him in, maybe he would be slightly more comfortable. I’d rather stack Surpass and Previcox than Previcox and Bute.