Researchers develop tool for early osteoarthritis detection in horses

A questionnaire is intended to help owners identify and monitor osteoarthritis pain to facilitate earlier, more effective treatment.

Researchers funded by the Morris Animal Foundation announced on April 2 the introduction of a straightforward questionnaire to help horse owners identify and monitor signs of osteoarthritis pain in their equine companions.

This initiative aims to facilitate earlier and more effective treatment, ultimately enhancing the quality of life for horses.

Objective tool

Created by Dr. Janny de Grauw, senior lecturer at the Royal Veterinary College in the United Kingdom; Bryony Lancaster, program director, MSc Equine Science of the University of Edinburgh; and Dr. Diane Howard, the questionnaire is modeled after the Brief Pain Inventory used to evaluate pain severity and its impact on functioning.

“Horses are another long-lived athletic species, and there is some thought that arthritis studies in horses may also apply to people, so having a similar instrument could help with that research,” Howard explained. “The questionnaire can also serve as an objective tool for veterinarians to assess and monitor the adequacy of treatment plans and so determine if changes in a protocol need to be made.”

A preliminary trial of the questionnaire, which involved 25 owners/caretakers of horses diagnosed with arthritis, revealed that 88% of participants found the questionnaire beneficial. In addition, 84% appreciated its simplicity and ease of use. 

An insight to consider

One significant insight from the study highlighted by Howard is that many horse owners blame themselves for their horse’s arthritis or believe it to be a natural occurrence beyond treatment. 

“In general, it’s not the owner or trainer’s fault, and once they realize that, they could be more willing to think, ‘Maybe my horse is hurting a bit, and maybe it’s arthritis,’” Howard said.

“There are currently no ways of curing it, but there are certainly ways of controlling the pain and slowing the progress of the disease.”

About Morris Animal Foundation 

Morris Animal Foundation’s mission is to bridge science and resources to advance the health of animals. Founded in 1948 and headquartered in Denver, Colorado, it is one of the largest non-profit animal health research organizations in the world, funding nearly $160 million in more than 3,000 critical animal health studies to date across a broad range of species. Learn more at

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