stifle injection horse

Stifle Injection in Horses: When and Why It’s Needed

by | Jul 30, 2023 | Equine Health, Equine Treatment

A buddy of mine has a young racehorse named Sundance, quite the sprinter, but he started to limp a bit after his morning gallops. This got us into a whirl of research and vet visits and before we knew it, we were knee-deep in discussions about equine lameness and joint injections.

These days, they’ve got a whole range of choices for treating horse joint issues, everything from basic injections to full-blown surgery. But we discovered that for many horses, and Sundance was no exception, joint injections often hit the sweet spot of being effective and yet not too invasive or risky.

The Basics of Joint Injections

Now, let’s talk specifics. You see, these joint injections have a couple of star players: hyaluronic acid and steroids. I remember being taken aback by the term ‘hyaluronic acid’. Sounded like something out of a sci-fi movie, right? But it’s actually just a substance that helps to lubricate and cushion the joints. And it comes in all sorts of molecular weights that can cater to the individual needs of each horse.

Take Sundance, for instance. He’s still young and his joints are always working overtime. For horses like him, larger molecules of hyaluronic acid work wonders. They stick around in the joint longer, giving Sundance’s joints a well-needed break. Yes, these larger molecules might cost a pretty penny, but hey, aren’t we all willing to splurge a bit on our furry friends?

Implications of Molecular Weights in Hyaluronic Acid

On the other end of the spectrum, we’ve got the old timers. Their joints don’t move as much, and sometimes even fusing together. If Sundance ever reaches that stage (knock on wood), we’d likely go for a mix of small, medium, and large hyaluronic acid molecules. They get the job done without breaking the bank and, once the joints fuse, they’re usually less uncomfortable, so the high-priced stuff becomes less necessary.

Then there are steroids, which are chosen based on what’s going on with the horse. If a horse has a metabolic syndrome, you’d need a steroid that doesn’t push it into a laminitic event. And as for the cost? Well, it’s a conversation to have with the vet, just like when Sundance had his issue. We were able to pick something that didn’t make our wallets cry too much and still had Sundance back on his hooves in no time.

Steroids in Joint Injections

Ah, steroids, the ever controversial topic. Now, you might be thinking about muscle-bound bodybuilders, but in the horse world, steroids have a much more medicinal role. When we think about joint injections, we can’t ignore the significance of the steroid used. Let me tell you a little story about a horse named Chicky, an otherwise spry mare with an unfortunate risk for metabolic syndrome. When it came time for her joint injections, I had anexperienced vet who decided against a particular steroid known to trigger a laminitic event.

We’ve got some big players in the steroid market. You might’ve heard of Triamcinolone Acetonide or Methylprednisolone Acetate. These two, along with others, are frequent choices for our four-legged friends. But remember, every horse is unique, and the steroid choice should reflect that.

Now, I’ve got to be honest with you – while steroids can be lifesavers, they’re not without their downsides. There’s this sneaky risk of accelerating joint degeneration if overused. So, be like a hawk, keep a keen eye out for any changes in your horse following an injection.

The New Frontier: Regenerative Medicine

Shifting gears here, let’s step into the future a bit. Ever heard of regenerative medicine? Think of it as recycling your horse’s own biological materials to stimulate healing and growth. We’re talking treatments like Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP), Interleukin Receptor Antagonist Protein (IRAP), and Pro-Stride. Each of these has its own unique approach, but the end goal is always healing and reduced inflammation.

Here’s the cool part: we start with stuff like the horse’s stem cells or blood, ship them off to a lab, and then voila! We’ve got this healing cocktail that we can inject back into the horse.

Case Study: Stifle Injections in Horses

Imagine you’re about to give an injection, you’ve got to know the horse’s leg like the back of your hand and keep everything squeaky clean. Now, deciding between a standard steroid/hyaluronic acid injection and these fancy new regenerative therapies, that’s a conversation for you and your vet. Maybe you’ve got a minor case on your hands and the standard injection will do. Or perhaps you’ve got a more persistent problem, and regenerative therapy is the better bet.

But remember, the most important thing is getting to the root of the problem. Treatments like shockwave therapy or surgery might be part of the solution. So don’t just put a band-aid on the symptoms – dig deep and help your horse live its best life.

Cautionary Advice for Horse Owners + Product Recommendations

Picture this: you’re in the vet’s office, and they’re about to administer a joint injection to your beloved horse. You’re anxious, understandably, but remember that you’re not just there to hold their halter. You’re their advocate. It’s essential that you understand what’s being injected into your horse and why. Sure, your vet is the expert, but you know your horse better than anyone else. Armed with knowledge, you can make informed decisions and communicate effectively with your vet.

Now, here’s something important to bear in mind. After an injection, each horse reacts differently. It’s a bit like us humans – some of us bounce back quickly from a flu shot, while others are knocked out for a day or two. The same goes for horses. You might need to give your horse a bit of a rest, or you could notice some unusual reactions. Handy products like Animalintex Poultice Pads can be a great help in drawing out any potential inflammation post-injection. And supplements like Absorbine Bute-Less Performance Supplement can support comfort and recovery. But, keep those eyes peeled for any unusual signs.

Let me tell you a story about a friend’s horse who was just fine the day after an injection, but the next day, poor thing could hardly walk on the injected leg. It was a good thing they spotted it quickly and called the vet right away. While they waited for the vet, they used an Ice Boot to soothe the area. But let’s not forget, when in doubt, always call your vet first.

Related: The Best Equine Joint Supplements


So, we’ve covered a lot of ground here, from the ins and outs of stifle injections to how to spot the warning signs post-injection. It’s all about empowering you, the horse owner, with the knowledge to take charge of your horse’s health.

Finally, let’s take a moment to appreciate how far we’ve come in treating equine lameness. The horizon looks bright, with advances in regenerative medicine offering us new tools to help our horses. Sure, injections come with their share of risks, but they also carry potential for tremendous benefits to our horses’ performance and quality of life. As the field of equine medicine continues to evolve, so do the opportunities to keep our four-legged friends in top form for years to come.

About The Author

<a href="" target="_self">Emily Wilson</a>

Emily Wilson

I'm from the very heart of Kentucky, you know, the place folks think of when they talk about horse love. Had the luck of growing up smack dab in the middle of some of the most awesome horse spots you'd ever see. Can't imagine starting my day any other way than being in that homely barn, waist-deep in horse stuff. My routine? It's a bit of everything really - taking care of the horses, bonding with them, you name it.

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