Technical information for veterinarians

Wound Healing and Surgery in horses


When cell membranes and the extracellular matrix are damaged, the potential for first intention healing involving the regeneration/proliferation of parenchymal elements is significantly reduced. This in turn results in the following:

  • Decreased production of long chain glycosaminoglycans with a compensatory increase in shorter chain glycosaminoglycans, leading to dehydration of the tissues and reduced membrane receptivity.
  • Decreased ability of the cells to receive the growth factors (somatomedins, insulin, etc.), that are necessary for cellular repair, maintenance, protection and communication.
  • The deposition of heavily glycosylated, compact and inflexible collagen types V and VI.
  • Increased granulomatous second intention healing involving stromal elements (i.e. development of scar tissue). This leads to loss of cellular/tissue function.
  • The loss of function in the cells and tissues further compromises the body’s ability to repair damage, leading to excessive inflammation, joint stiffness, spasm. and increased tendency to bruise.

Treatment Options

Horse owners naturally want their horse to heal as fast as possible. Immobilizing the area (possibly with a brace or splint) may provide adequate stabilization during the recovery period.

Analgesics should be used to control pain and the horse should be given plenty of water to avoid dehydration. Owners should be apprised of the signs of infection (heat, redness, increased discomfort, discharge), and should be encouraged to seek your professional advice if they think a wound may have become infected. Horses should not be allowed to get wet for at least a week following surgery.


Analgesic and Anti-inflammatory medications – Ideally, these should only be used for the short term, when necessary to control pain.


For mild to moderate pain, acetaminophen (Tylenol®, Panadol®, Exdol®, etc.) is often prescribed. Since acetaminophen has no anti-inflammatory properties, it can generally be safely combined with anti-inflammatory medications.


Visco-supplementation is the process of injecting a gel-like substance into a joint. This may be done following surgery. This substance lubricates the cartilage, reducing pain and improving flexibility. Visco-supplementation decreases friction within the joint, thus reducing pain and allowing greater mobility. This method of treatment requires ongoing injections, as benefits are only temporary. Substances used in visco-supplementation include hyaluronic acid, or HA (Legend®, Hylartin® and Synacid®), and poly-sulfated glycosaminoglycans (PSGAGS) such as Adequan®.

Post surgical period


Note: The horse’s exercise should be limited for three to four weeks after surgery to reduce pain and minimize the chance of reinjury. Your veterinarian will apprise you of the appropriate time to reintroduce exercise.

Reducing the risk of reinjury

The following pointers will help horse owners reduce the risk of reinjury:


Muscle, bone and other tissues of the body respond to exercise by becoming stronger. The best exercise for your horse is weight bearing exercise, which forces him/her to work against gravity. (Walking is a weight bearing exercise.) In addition to preventing bone loss or rebuilding bone, exercise can also strengthen muscles. Having strong muscles will help your horse maintain better balance and become more flexible. This can help prevent falls that could cause bone fractures.

Your choice of exercise might be more limited if your horse has severe pain. However, it is still important that your horse gets some exercise.

Always consult your veterinarian before beginning an exercise program. He or she may also be able to refer a physical therapist who can advise you of the forms of exercise that are likely to be helpful and those that could be harmful.

Being active will also keep your horse a healthy weight, preventing the strain on the joints that leads to arthritis.


Whenever possible, avoid chronic administration of drugs that may accelerate tissue breakdown. (These include corticosteroids and NSAIDs, long-term use of which should be discussed with your veterinarian.)


Making sure you feed your horse a high quality, natural diet is important to his/her long-term health and wellbeing. Many feed suppliers now carry quality natural foods geared towards your horse’s age/weight, etc. Be sure to supplement standard feed with an acidophilus supplement and flax oil for a healthy digestive system and arteries, and to help prevent arthritis.



Preventing falls is of special concern to owners of horses with osteoporosis as falls can increase the likelihood of fracturing bones. In addition to the environmental factors listed below, falls can also result from impaired vision and/or balance, chronic diseases that impair mental or physical functioning, and certain medications such as sedatives. It is important that horses with osteoporosis be observed more carefully so that physical changes that affect their balance or gait are noticed early and mentioned to your veterinarian. Some tips to help eliminate the environmental factors that lead to falls include:


  • Be careful on highly polished floors that become slick and dangerous when wet.
  • Remove yard debris that your horse may stumble over.


  • Keep stalls free of clutter, especially on floors.
  • Keep floor surfaces smooth but not slippery.

Avoid excessive stress on bones and joints

  • Prevent your horse from keeping the same position for a long period of time.
  • Maintain a healthy weight in your horse to avoid putting extra stress on his bones.
  • Use supportive devices when necessary.

Show your horse you care

  • A soothing voice, a scratch behind the ears, a pat on the back…all these gestures communicate that you care for your horse and are there to provide help in a time of need.

Natural options for horses to improve healing


Recovery®EQ with Nutricol®, is an elite proprietary performance and wellness supplement for horses that enhances quality of life.Recovery®EQ improves healing by increasing circulation of nutrients to affected cells and extracellular structures, halting tissue damage and modulating inflammation. It may be usedin combination with prescribed medications. Always consult with the veterinarian prior to adding a new natural lifestyle supplement to a horse’s feeding program.

Review in the prestigious Horse Journal in October and December 2003

Recovery®EQrated as “Best Performer Overall” as a pain-relieving supplement for joint pain, back pain and tendonitis – comparison of natural joint care supplements.

Review in the prestigious Horse Journal inJune 2006:

“You get what you pay for” – Horse Journal quote about Recovery®EQ used as a performance enhancing supplement – comparison of natural performance enhancing supplements

For more information on helping your horse stay healthy, please see Tips for a Healthier Horse