Degenerative Joint Disease in Horses - McDowell's Herbal Treatments

Degenerative Joint Disease, or osteoarthritis as it can also be known, is a leading cause of pain and lameness in horses. Without a cure, preventing its onset and progression is the best way to approach this condition. It is progressive and usually becomes worse over time. 


Degenerative Joint Disease in horses can be caused by injury and trauma to the site, unstable joints due to genetics, inflammation, long-term steroid medication, and excessively high levels of exercise. Larger horses can be more susceptible due to weight impact on joints. Lameness is often attributable to some degree of osteoarthritis and the result is eventual degradation of articular cartilage (4).

Symptoms of DJD

The first symptoms are changes movement and behaviour, which can be caused by other factors. We recommend having your Vet perform an examination to confirm the diagnosis, prior to treating it. They will examine movement, range of motion and may take x-rays. 


Evidence shows that preventing DJD is better than trying to treat it down the track(3)Research supports the theory that giving supplements and feeding an anti-inflammatory diet helps prevent and treat DJD.
McDowells recommends a wholefood, natural diet that is low sugar and processed food.
This includes:

  • Speedi-beet
  • White chaff (like wheaten)
  • Linseed
  • Oats (whole) - steamed or rolled
  • Millet (if oats are too heating)
  • Whole herbs - chamomile, rosehips, yarrow, dandelion
  • Rice bran or hemp seeds for healthy omegas
  • Kelp - (not required if feeding McDowells liquid formulations)
  • Hay - oaten or meadow 24/7 or pasture

McDowells Program

The Structural Injury Program contains two powerful products have been successfully used by McDowells Herbal to promote the re-growth of attachment points and the re-tensioning of stretched or damaged ligaments, whilst supporting the easing of pain and alleviating inflammation.

Alleviate has been traditionally used to reduce pain from inflammation and support in the healing process. This formulation may be used safely for both emergencies and in the long term for comfort. 
Tendon and Bone is successfully used to promote the re-growth of attachment points and the re-tensioning of stretched or damaged ligaments.


In conclusion it should be clear that there are a large number of simple and inexpensive ways in which herbs can be used to both supplement the diet, aid in the maturity of bones in young competition horses, and to repair and resolve injury and strain occasioned by workload or injury. These preventative programs and injury treatments should always be the first considered and you should manage them yourselves. Veterinary medicine and surgery should be reserved for those occasions when herbal and home remedies and rehabilitation programs need assistance.

Herbs will aid in healing and recovery from injury wherever it is found in the body. Therefore every time you are treating a specific problem the herbs will also seek out other areas of past or impending weakness and take advantage of the opportunity to resolve these without your even knowing it is going on.





(1) Joint Disease in Horses (Osteoarthritis / Degenerative)

(2) Understanding Joint Disease in Horses

(3) The preventive effects of two nutraceuticals on experimentally induced acute synovitis
*de Water, E.V., M. Oosterlinck, M. Dumoulin, et al. 2017.. Equine Veterinary Journal 49(4):532-538.

(4) The use of nutraceuticals for osteoarthritis in horses

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We are open Monday to Friday 9 am to 5 pm. AEST. You can also contact us by phone or email.

02 6331 3937
+61 2 6331 3937(Int)


McDowell's staff Herbalists can not diagnose your disease or illness. What they can do is offer a herbal program to assist with healing, after you have had advice from your doctor or specialist. If you have unexplained pain or symptoms, seek medical advice.

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