Glucosamine for Horses – Facts For Horse Owners

Glucosamine for horses

Glucosamine for horses has proven to be very effective in treating joint pain and arthritic symptoms as well as thoroughly protecting and cushioning the joints for long term results. Glucosamine may be an ingredient you have heard of before and it is regularly used in supplements for both human and animal consumption. It is a powerful, fast-acting ingredient that is commonly used as the first ingredient in many horse joint supplement formulas.

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Here we take a deeper look into what Glucosamine is, how it works, the types available, how it should be fed, and the reasons why you may choose to supplement your horse with this ingredient.

What is Glucosamine?

Glucosamine is a sugar compound that is already naturally made in the horse’s body. It can be found in many of the horse’s molecules as well as the joint cartilage. Small amounts of Glucosamine can also be found present in the horse’s bloodstream, however, deficiencies are very rare.

When looking at Glucosamine in supplement form it is most commonly produced by processing chitin from the hard covering of shellfish such as Shrimp and Lobster and is usually harvested to be included in supplements.

That being said, it is also highly possible for Glucosamine to be produced in a laboratory environment. It is more frequently manufactured in this way to meet the needs of vegetarians and those with fish allergies by using fungus (Aspergillus Niger) and fermenting corn.

Here we take a look at a selection of key topics relating to Glucosamine;

  • Types of Glucosamine
  • What does Glucosamine work well with
  • How does Glucosamine work
  • What types of Horses can benefit from taking Glucosamine
  • How much Glucosamine is Safe

Types of Glucosamine for Horses

Glucosamine comes in several forms and it is fair to say that these variants have different effects when taken as a supplement. The three main forms found are:

  • Glucosamine sulfate
  • Glucosamine hydrochloride
  • N-acetyl-glucosamine

Glucosamine Sulfate is the most common type and is used regularly in supplements taken orally. It can be taken in a powder form which is ideal for mixing into the horse’s feed, but can also come in a tablet form too.

Glucosamine hydrochloride can also be seen regularly in horse joint supplements but contains a much higher content of the ingredient compared with the later (around 99% compared with 60%).

What does Glucosamine work well with?

You will quite often find that supplements contain other ingredients in addition to Glucosamine. MSM, Chondroitin, and Hyaluronic Acids are all ingredients pretty common. Glucosamine works particularly well with all of these ingredients, in particular Chondroitin. It’s true to say it isn’t a pain reliever in its own right, however, it is known to be very effective when working closely together with Glucosamine.

Together, Glucosamine and Chondroitin are very effective pain relievers and are designed to take the edge off. It helps to delay the cartilage deterioration rate, whilst still managing the pain associated with arthritis, which can be particularly troublesome for horses.

How does Glucosamine work for horses?

Glucosamine is undoubtedly one of the best single ingredients in any joint supplement. Some research has taken place on the subject of how this ingredient can help joint pain in horses and the outcome has been phenomenal.

This fast-acting, powerful ingredient has a soothing effect that aims to reduce arthritic symptoms and relieve pain. Arthritis can be an unbearable disease that heavily affects daily life and Glucosamine works hard to reduce inflammation, heat, and swelling which in turn manages pain.

This fast-acting, powerful ingredient has a soothing effect that aims to reduce arthritic symptoms and relieve pain.

Glucosamine has lubricating properties that act as a shock absorber, cushioning your horse’s joints during exercise. Your horse’s joints need to stay hydrated which can help with free movement and suppleness of the joints.

It also helps to build cartilage around the tough connective tissue that protects the joints. This effectively maintains the condition of the joint and helps slows down the process of deterioration over time.

From older horses with arthritis to competition horses doing fast, intensive work, Glucosamine looks to be an all-round winner when it comes to effectiveness.

The competition horse
The competition horse

Would my horse benefit from taking Glucosamine?

Many horses can benefit from the addition of Glucosamine to their diet. Older equines quite often suffer from painful arthritis and this ingredient can be very helpful in managing those symptoms, ensuring life is much more comfortable for your horse.

Competition horses and those in very fast, heavy work can also find using Glucosamine to be very helpful since one of its primary functions is to lubricate and effectively cushion the joints. For those horses taking part in jumping disciplines that take a bigger toll on the joints, Glucosamine has proven to be very useful and can speed up recovery time.

Deterioration of the joints over time is inevitable and many owners choose to supplement their horses with glucosamine regardless of age or the disciplines they carry out. In general terms, Glucosamine is proven to be safe for any type of equine including pregnant mares and their foals.

Foal eating feed
Glucosamine is proven to be safe for any type of equine including pregnant mares and their foal

It is always a very wise idea if you are unsure about the use of this ingredient to contact your vet for some additional advice for complete peace of mind.

How much Glucosamine is safe for horses?

Most joint supplements on the market will include a varying degree of glucosamine in the formula, however, the best results have occurred from higher levels of the substance. It isn’t uncommon to find 99%-100% pure Glucosamine in horse joint supplements since it is much more effective in higher doses.

One of the main reasons the dosage seems so high is due to the body’s inability to absorb the full amount provided. Only 2%-5% of Glucosamine fed to horses is actually bioavailable and can be absorbed sufficiently. It’s easy to see based on this why so many supplements containing Glucosamine are deemed ineffective. They often don’t contain anywhere near enough ingredients.

Only 2%-5% of Glucosamine fed to horses is actually bioavailable and can be absorbed sufficiently.

Choosing the correct dosage for your horse can be tricky. It is always advisable to read the manufacturer’s instructions, however as stated previously, some of these supplements can provide such a small amount of Glucosamine from the offset that the amount actually absorbed by your horse can be minimal. Glucosamine HCl usually contains the highest content (approx. 99%) whereas Glucosamine Sulphate is considerably less at around 60%.

Research carried out at Texas A&M University to determine the effectiveness of Glucosamine for horses studied 14 yearlings and chose to safely feed those 10,000mg of Glucosamine twice a day which was calculated to be 30mg per kilogram of body weight. The positive results concluded that “A glucosamine supplementation decreased inflammation while supporting the growth of new cartilage in response to a joint insult in young, growing horses when the glucosamine was administered for 84 days prior to said insult”

It is fair to say that higher, more concentrated levels of Glucosamine are usually used for equine studies and in fact, 10,000mg in total per day is enough for horses showing signs of joint stress. A 5000mg dosage per day is sufficient enough for long-term maintenance.

How to use Glucosamine for Horses?

Glucosamine regularly presents itself in the form of joint supplements. As discussed previously, some supplements can have a much higher content of this ingredient than others, however, this doesn’t usually determine the methods of administration.

Glucosamine for horses can come in many different forms, but some of the most common are:

  • Powder

Powdered Glucosamine supplements are probably one of the most common methods. The powder can easily be mixed into your horse’s regular feed. As long as you dampen down the feed, the powder will thoroughly mix and combine into concentrate feeds very well.

Most horses don’t even notice any difference and wolf down their feed as usual. A scoop is usually provided for measuring and 1-2 scoops is common per feed.

  • Syringe

Administering Glucosamine by syringe can be a very effective way to manage your horse’s joint health. It can be a particularly good method for fussy horses that won’t eat a feed that includes powder supplements. By using the syringing method you can be sure your horse has received a complete dose.

It is fair to say this doesn’t work for everyone. Some owners find it very difficult to get their horse to take oral medication. In theory, this is quite a straightforward method to use and generally starts working within a few hours.

  • Tablets

Glucosamine tablets are not as common and some owners find administering tablets to their horses difficult since they are taken orally. You do however always have the option to mix tablets into your horse’s feed if you consider that to work better. As with using syringe joint supplements, you can also ensure your horse gets the full dosage.

  • Liquid

Liquid Glucosamine works similarly to powder form, which you can mix directly into your horse’s concentrate feed. It tends to mix in even better than the powder form. It will really coat the feed, so if you have a fussy horse this may not be a good option. The feedback is that the liquids are very palatable so this shouldn’t be an issue for most horses.

Glucosamine for Horses Conclusion 

Glucosamine has proven to be a very effective way of treating joint issues for horses and can regularly be found as the first ingredient in many horse joint supplements. More scientific research is still needed to truly understand the effectiveness of this ingredient but has ultimately proven to be safe for use in horses.

Many supplements on the market containing Glucosamine provide very low doses within the formula which is an important consideration and will heavily determine the overall effectiveness. Glucosamine works extremely well with Chondroitin and combining the two could prove to be a great solution for your horse to combat pain as well as help with the deterioration of the joints which over time is inevitable.

Get the Best Glucosamine for Your Horse – No Junk, No Fillers 

Pilot Equine offer a product called Freedom, which is an advanced joint supplement for horses and contains Glucosamine as well as other crucial ingredients for healthy ligaments and joints.

Pilot Freedom UK
Pilot Freedom UK

Head to their website to see how this horse supplements UK brand can help you and your horse!

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