Diary of DJD
Joint Disease (DJD) usually starts with the inflammation of
the tissue (synovial membrane) that surrounds the joint. The
synovial membrane responds to injury by becoming inflamed
and allows white blood cells, that are normally filtered out
of the joint, to enter. The inflamed synovial membrane and
white blood cells release damaging enzymes that may damage
articular cartilage is damaged it may progress to
Degenerative Joint Disease. DJD is not correctable and the
course of treatment is to manage. Early detection is the key
to successfully managing DJD.
We will present an ongoing dialog taken from the diary of
Cris, the proud caretaker and owner of Shadow Fax, a
19-year-old Half-Arabian gelding who has been diagnosed with
What a winter - it has been going on forever; horses are in
most days - Shadow Fax really needs to move; wish he'd longe.
I know he knows how, he just hates going in a mindless
circle, so I hate to force him. Marty came over tonight;
said we needed to make a plan for Shadow Fax while he's in
so much; he needs to longe in the indoor to get some
exercise. We'll meet at the barn at night after work and
he'll lounge Shadow Fax for me. Marty - I love you, horse
friends are the greatest......
Wonderful - Shadow told Marty he didn't want to longe -
Marty told him he had to - and Shadow settled right in - got
a real nice Western jog going - that has to be really good
for him. After awhile, he even looked like he enjoyed it -
can't wait for tomorrow night.
Hey - this is great - we're getting into a regular routine;
even I longe Shadow and he doesn't even give me that "I
don't wanna" look anymore; first we longe, and then I ride -
all in the indoors, of course, weather still awful.
Didn't get to longe much this past week - no matter, I rode
him today, and will ride him tomorrow -still in the indoor,
horses up way too much due to weather - rain, rain, rain -
too slippery to let them out these days. I can tell Shadow
wants to move - every time I ask him to trot, he goes into a
canter don't blame him, so we canter.
Marty came to be barn and said we should longe - so we got
Shadow from his stall and brought him into the indoor arena.
He looked lame - I noticed it, soon as Marty started longing
him. I told Marty to stop - it didn't look right. Marty
asked me to longe Shadow so that he could watch him - said
that he agreed - but it was ever so slight. Probably nothing
to worry about - my mind was racing - could he have twisted
something the day we were longing him and he did a quick
spin around when something spooked him from behind? Could it
be a stone bruise? Maybe just something like that - there
are plenty of rocks in the indoor arena. We checked his legs
and couldn't find anything - put him back in his stall and
decided to wait a few days and see how he did - I always
panic, and try not to - so, let's wait a few days and see
how he is.
Had barn owner, Roger, look at Shadow walking and trotting;
asked if he could see that Shadow was off. He said, not
really, maybe ever so slightly; but if he was very obvious
Sunday, and already doing that much better today, it was
probably nothing to worry about! Well, good - he is pretty
good about what's ailing horses, he can spot a lame horse at
a mile - guess I'll just continue to not ride him for a
little longer, and all will be well. Anyway, I got on him
for a short while the day Marty and I first noticed it, and
Marty said that it looked like he warmed out of it after a
No - something is not right with Shadow Fax - I know he's
been in his stall way too much and I haven't been riding
him; mostly I have seen him at a walk; but when I asked him
to trot tonight, that limp was back - I'm calling the vet
Met with Dr. Ramsey tonight after work - he longed Shadow to
see him move. Said that yes, he's off - then he did the hoof
test - no response from Shadow - obviously not a stone
bruise. Asked when he was shod last - 2 weeks ago - well,
then not from a bad shoing job, obviously! Then he did the
flex test - when I took off with Shadow after he did the
right hind leg, the verdict was in - right hind leg was the
problem.. At this point, my heart was falling - last fall,
at the barn, a horse was diagnosed with DJD - he can never
be ridden again. And Marty's words "He seemed to warm out of
it" kept ringing in my ears - I know so little about horse
health, but my now I'm getting an awful feeling about it -
it was getting pretty late, and Dr. Ramsey suggested we meet
tomorrow, Saturday at 9 a.m., and he'll do some X-rays. I
think he is suspecting DJD as well, cause he went on to tell
me about treatment for it.....but finished by saying that we
will see what the X-rays show. When I came home, I called
Marty - he promised to be there, so that he can explain
(over and over again) what the vet is saying - I'm such a
fool when it comes to medical terms.
I knew it, I just knew it - DJD - it felt like the end of
the world when the X-rays confirmed my suspicion. I know so
little about horses - but again, "He warms out of it" kept
ringing in my ears - Dr. Ramsey came and took 6 X-rays of
Shadows legs - then came back and did 2 more - he X-rayed
both hind legs for comparison. Then afterwards Marty and I
met with him in his office....bless Marty, he knew why he
was there - to hear everything, the treatment options and
then explain it to me - several times over. If I understand
everything right, one option, according to Dr. Ramsey, is to
bute him and ride, ride, ride - and eventually the bones
will fuse, and the lameness will be very slight - well, the
way he said that, he went through that very quickly - he
knows how I feel about Shadow Fax; I think that is mostly
for people who show, and just want the horse to perform at
any cost - Dear Dairy, I'm so depressed let me tell you more
.....so, another option is to inject something directly into
the affected joint - according to Dr. Ramsey, Shadow's
problem is in a low motion joint which is good and it's only
just started - it was caught early - however, this is very
invasive and there is a chance of infection- his comment -
but there is an other option....Adequan - a shot given once
a week for 6 weeks in the neck, and glucosamine in his feed
Dr. Ramsey called me and said the Adequan will be here by
Thursday and Shadow can have his first shot then; he told me
to check on the glucosamine - should be 7500 mg...
Ordered the glucosamine - from State Line Tack - their own
brand - 7500mg - having it shipped fast - will be here
Friday - day after Shadow Fax's first shot...
Shadow got his first shot of Adequan - and of course I can't
ride him - for how long? Dr. Ramsey said at least 5 weeks -
well, I haven't ridden him since the day I first noticed he
was lame - had thought I could get on him and just walk -
Dr. says no - so I won't - if this treatment doesn't work, I
sure don't want it to be because I didn't listen to
him....Flex Formula should be here tomorrow - will start
Shadow on that.....
Shadow got his second shot of Adequan - Dr. Ramsey didn't
want to see him move after his first shot - guess he wanted
to keep the way he moved before the treatment started in his
mind - this time, he had me walk and trot Shadow - said he
thought he looked better....
Well, finally - the weather is warming up - high time.
Shadow is not eating his glucosamine; according to
instructions on container, he should have 2 scoops a day for
2-3 weeks, then 1 scoop after that for maintenance. I was
hoping the glucosamine would mix enough with the powder of
Equi-Jewel that he would eat it....he HAS to have the
glucosamine according to Dr. Ramsey! When I mixed the ground
bute tablets into his feed, he ate it....of course it was
only one tablet - still - bute has a strong taste. At every
feed, he leaves enough feed in his bucket, telling me he is
not in taking the amount he should be. First I thought that
he would finish it sometime during the night, but he isn't -
every evening when I get to the barn after work, the
leftovers are still there.....he has to eat it...
Well it worked - I gave him one feeding without any
glucosamine - and of course he finished it! Then I started
several feedings with half the recommended dosage of
glucosamine - he's getting used to the taste now - tomorrow
I'll start doing twice the volume - also tomorrow is shot
Beautiful day - and Shadow is finishing his feed and getting
the full dose of glucosamine. I should have thought about it
in the beginning and eased him into the new taste. He got
his 3rd shot yesterday - he just stands perfectly still and
takes it - it must not be a painful shot at all! Good.
I try not to watch him moving - I'm afraid to. I'll wait
till the shots are all over.
I look at him, his shiny, healthy looking coat - how can
this horse possibly be sick? How deceiving it seems.. the
fastest horse in the pasture, the one full of life, the high
stepping, snorting, alert, watching everything,
self-confident, personality plus horse - it can't be true
that he is the one with a decease that will change his
ability to be that lively, smooth moving creature.
Got to the barn after work tonight - Shadow was just being
brought in from the field for the evening! It was awful -
used to only be able to notice his limp at the trot -
tonight I could see it at the walk. I thought he was
supposed to be getting better - I'll call Dr. Ramsey first
thing in the morning - maybe he can stop by and have a look
at him. Roger said he behaved very lively earlier in the day
when he took him out to the field - so why is he limping
Dr. Ramsey said there will be days with "flare-ups" of his
condition - I don't want to hear it. I thought the warmer
weather would make him feel better - after all, it's been in
the 80ties lately. He's in the field every other day, and up
in his stall every other day - the first 10 days when he was
on bute, he sure seemed to be lively to put it mildly -
maybe not good for him to run that much. I'll ask Dr. Ramsey
if we should give him bute on days when he is confined to
his stall - day after tomorrow is his 4th shot - I'll ask
Shot No. 4 tomorrow - brought Shadow in from the field
myself tonight - walked ahead of him - never glanced to see
how he was walking - am afraid to. Meeting Dr. Ramsey at 8am
at the barn tomorrow.
Dr. Ramsey agreed with me this morning - Shadow Fax looks
worse! I hate it when I'm right!
We met in the am, I brought Shadow out of his stall, and he
could see him moving his right hind leg more stiffly than he
did last week. Said we might have to get more aggressive,
and go to plan B, some shot that is injected directly into
the hock. But first, he said, let's get together and do
another X-ray - see if there is any visible change to cause
him being worse - gave me 14 Bute tablets to use as I see
fit. As he's in his stall every other day, and in the field
every other day, I think I'll give him the bute on the days
he's up - don't want him to feel better than he feels due to
bute, and overdo his running in the field. Dr. Ramsey is
fully booked it seems - Monday evening is the earliest he
can do more X-Rays - Monday evening it is!
I felt so depressed - we caught his DJD so early - and the
shots aren't working? He's WORSE? Got on the net, wrote an
e-mail to the makers of Adequan - asked them if we were
doing anything wrong - is anything I'm feeding him
counter-acting the proclaimed effects of the product? Could
they offer any suggestions? Hope somebody has a magic wand
that will make Shadow all better...
No answer on the e-mail from the Adequan people - rained,
Shadow up in his stall all day - got him out when I got
there after work, walked him a little, fed him his daily
carrots, and cleaned his stall while he was eating his
More rain - Shadow stall bound all day - didn't get to the
barn till evening feed time - pulled him off his hay, and
walked him a little outside; Sandra and Roger told me they
thought he looked better, walking and trotting...
Tax Day - glad I did mine early and don't have to stand in
line at the post office!
When I got to the barn after work, Shadow was outside
grazing with his group - so I left him there while I cleaned
his stall. Dr. Ramsey will probably be late for our 5:30
appointment, and as Shadow is going to be in his stall all
day tomorrow - leave him out in the sunshine till Dr. Ramsey
gets here. Dr. Ramsey and I have an agreement - for routine
calls, I'll wait till he can get here - a 2 hour wait is not
a problem - I'll wait - but if I ever say "Get here now" -
be here - I need you NOW! And he'll be here in no time...
Well, 7:30 he got to the barn - they just brought the horses
in - I pulled Shadow back out of his stall - made him walk
and trot for Dr. Ramsey -who said he looked better than last
Thursday - confirmed by Sandra, who said he came flying at a
gallop when she called the horses in for their evening meal.
I didn't see it , I was busy cleaning his stall - but,
according to Dr. Ramsey - let's put off the X-rays, as he
seems better today! So, pray they are all right - next shot
on Thursday morning as usual.
When I came home, there was an e-mail from the Adequan
people - said they don't know why Shadow isn't better after
the shots he has had - said, that usually results are seen
after 2-3 weeks of treatments - they recommend a shot every
4 days (500 mg) for a total of 7 shots; we're doing one shot
a week for 6 weeks - I'm going to call Dr. Ramsey in the
morning and let him know what they said - are we spreading
the shot over too many days for a result to show up?
Wrote the Adequan people back - asking them to explain their
plan (as opposed to Dr. Ramsey's) - hopefully they will
answer, and if theirs make sense, when I tell Dr. Ramsey, if
it makes sense to him, I know we'll switch to every 4 days
and 7 shots instead of 6...
Wrote back to the Adequan producer - told them about 1 shot
a week for 6 weeks - asked them to please answer my e-mail
again, in case Dr. Ramsey's plan is wrong. Can't wait to see
if they'll answer my e-mail again...
Got an e-mail back from the Adequan people - they explained
that their basis for a shot every 4 days x 7 is that Adequan
reaches therapeutic levels in all Synovial joints within 2
hours, and remains at that level for approx.. 96 hours - so
- by repeating the injection every 4 days the therapeutic
drug level in the joints is maintained a full 28 days,
allowing a substantial amount of time for healing!
Hmmm - I know they are in the business of selling their
products - but if this is a true and tried fact - it makes
So - called Dr. Ramsey's answering service and left a
message for him to call me at his convenience - want to
relay this info and see what he thinks - could it be that
our treatment has been too thinly spread? If we speed it up
and add a shot - will we see an improvement? I pray that
this is so....
Dr. Ramsey called back - said he knew what the makers of
Adequan were recommending - his plan came from
recommendations from professors at a veterinary university
in Georgia - but if I would like, we could change to every
four days; said, the professors were dealing with real life
- whatever I wanted to do was OK with him, but reminded me
of the increased cost as well. We're meeting for shot No. 5
in the am....what to do?
Dr. Ramsey said Shadow looked great coming out of his stall
this morning; told me to make him trot - said he could see
an improvement. Told me to let him make Shadow Fax trot so
that I could see it - he did look better - but I'm afraid to
hope for too much - and sure enough, when I got back to the
barn this evening, Shadow didn't look as good trotting as he
did this morning. What an emotional roller coaster - well,
anyway, we agreed to give Shadow his next shot Monday -
waiting only 4 days - and then give him shot No. 7 on Friday
- my hopes are dwindling...he looks better, he looks worse,
he looks better, he looks worse - he's of course still
getting his glucosamine every day...
Saturday; went to the barn in the early afternoon; Shadow
was in his stall. Took him out and hand grazed him for an
hour or two, then let him into the arena to walk at will.
Didn't think his right hind leg moved too well today....have
only given him one bute tablet since Dr. Ramsey gave me the
14 pills to give him when I felt he needed it. Don't really
want to give him the pills, am afraid it will hide his pain,
and I can't really see how he is feeling. Shadow didn't seem
to have pain today, he wasn't running wild and galloping,
but seemed relaxed - well, plenty of clover and fresh grass
where I took him to graze - must be like Baskin and Robbins
31 Flavors for me! That was a lighthearted remark - in my
mind, I am very concerned about the lack of consistent
improvement in him....the X-rays showed so little problem,
why is this treatment not working better? I was told a
couple of weeks ago that I have DJD in my neck as well - I
just choose to ignore it - am I worrying too much about
Shot No. 6 - agreed on Friday 4/27/01 for shot No. 7 - final
shot! Dr. Ramsey thinks he looks better - got rid of that
"peg-legged" looks he says - me - I just cross my fingers to
check the final result after shot No. 7.
Ordered bucket (5 lb) No. 2 of State Line Tack's glucosamine
powder - told them I did the math on their bucket, and it
did NOT come out to 7,500 mg of glucosamine per serving like
the ad in their brochure said - only 6,362 mg - said the
would check and call me back.
Call back on my answering machine from State Line Tack -
said I was right, the glucosamine content was only 6,362 mg
per serving - I will have to up Shadow Fax's 2 daily rations
by about 1/4 scoop. While I appreciate the call back from
them, it makes me mad that they overstated the contents in
their brochure, and all the time I thought I was giving
Shadow Fax the dosage advised by my vet!
Couldn't meet with Dr. Ramsey this morning - HAD to be at
work at 8 am, as everyone else is sick or on vacation - Dr.
Ramsey was supposed to give Shadow Fax his shot without me
being there. When I got there after work, Roger said he
thought he saw his truck - so guess Shadow got shot No. 7!
Well, as per normal procedure, I started cleaning his stall,
as he was out in the field - checked on him, and he looked
happy, eating spring grass. A short while after I started
cleaning, someone yelled "horses out" - I just knew it was
Shadow's field that somehow had gotten out - sure enough,
some fool left a gate open, and Shadow and his 3 pasture
mates had seen their change for total freedom. We all went
running out to try to get them - they were on the race track
- couldn't see them, but could hear the thunder of hooves -
I knew Shadow would be the first horse we would see. And
sure enough, here they came hauling from the racetrack
towards the barn - and Shadow in the lead! Shadow - you are
the oldest, and you have DJD - wait up! Not a chance; a box
wire fence had been put up in haste to prevent the horses to
run any further towards the barn. Shadow ran right thru it ,
and the other horses followed. We finally got them cornered
and halters and lead ropes put on them. Shadow has a small
skin scrape in his left front leg and a scrape on his nose.
Hosed his leg down and put cream on it - put cream on the
scrape on his nose. Everyone said later, that is sure
doesn't look like his leg is bothering him - well, that's
great - but maybe adrenaline is a stronger "fix" than
Adequan and glucosamine? Sunday will show! That's when I'm
planning to try to ride him again. Haven't been on him since
this all started, and as Marty and I are going to Lexington
for the Rolex Cross Country tomorrow, I won't be here to
ride him Saturday. So, Sunday it is..........the day of
reality! For two and one half month, he has not been ridden,
no excess weight on his back, given Adequan shots and
glucosamine - what is Sunday going to show? Roger promised
to check him in the morning to make sure there's no swelling
in his front legs (which went thru the fence first) as Marty
and I are planning to leave for Rolex at 4:30am - entirely
Marty's idea! Really, I don't want to go; I want to be here
and check Shadow to make sure he's OK.....but I promised I'd
go - but I really want to check Shadow - somehow, I think he
will be OK - I think the treatment is working - just a gut
feel - Sunday will tell!
So - Rolex was fun - now to the important part - MY horse!
This afternoon was D-day - the first time riding Shadow Fax
for 2 1/2 months - Marty had promised to be there to judge
from the ground what SFax looked like when he had weight on
his back - and he showed up at 3 p.m. as promised!
I took SFax out of his stall and let him graze on lead rope
for about 1 hour before Marty got there; after all he'd been
in his stall all day - wanted to let him have a chance to
loosen up and relax - it was a beautiful day today! Put him
back in his stall and Marty and I smoked a cigarette to get
our act together - bless horse friends who understand what
you are going through with a horse that means the world to
Got SFax out of his stall - didn't tack him up - thought I'd
let him have a chance to tell me how he was feeling about me
getting on him. So - I brought him into the arena in halter
and lead rope; pulled him close to the fence, and climbed up
on the fence; asked him to move closer to that I could get
on him - I know that if he'd resist, he would be telling me
that he didn't want any weight on his back; and I know that
when he moves closer to the fence, it means - "Come on, jump
on - I'm fine" - well, when I said "Shadow, sweetie, get
closer so that I can get on you" - he moved closer! I got on
him - and we walked together - then we did a gentle trot -
no resistance, no misbehavior!
Next step - got the saddle and bit on him - walked around
for a while, trotted, and at one time when I asked for the
trot I got a canter! We rode - mostly at a walk - probably
about 30-40 minutes - Marty said afterwards that once in a
while, maybe every 5th step, he could detect a slight "off"
movement of his right hind leg - but then, sometimes his
left hind leg looked the same "off" - it could be, he said,
just because I wasn't asking him to really work - no
collection, no rounding, I just let him move - well, sloppy
is what we were, really - but at this point, correct riding
isn't really what I'm looking for - I just want SFax to have
no pain when we ride, and hopefully continue to improve.
Reality check here - what can I realistically expect? He is
after all almost 19 years old - the Fountain of Youth hasn't
been found yet - Miracles are few and far between - getting
a little stiff in the joints myself - what's ahead of us?
Was today just a "good day"? Is glucosamine effective as a
continued treatment after the Adequan shots are finished?
This has been a very, very stressful period; and it isn't
over yet - is tomorrow going to be good for him? Was today
anything I can count on?
Dear Diary - you have "listened" to me lament almost
every day now for over 2 months - I think it's time to move
on! It's like being on a diet - don't step on the scale
every single day - do it once a week or once a month - so -
from now on, that's what I will do - I will give you weekly
or monthly updates - cause, like today - SFax seemed fine -
but he has to be consistently fine for what - a week, a
month - before I can feel the treatment was effective? Who
can tell me?
Got to the barn after work - Shadow in the field - when we
went to get the horses in for the night (and feed) SFax came
at a full gallop to the gate - Roger says that every time he
lets Shadow Fax out in the field in the a.m. he is still
flying - says he is a long, long way from being crippled -
says he saw at least 10 horses at the show he went to over
the weekend that looked a lot worse than SFax - so I just
now decided, that I'm going to have a positive feeling about
SFax is going to be fine - his DJD was caught early,
treatment was given right away - he was not ridden, no
stress put on him - he is mentally healthy - Dear Dairy -
"talk" to you in a month - and pray I have only positive
news to give you!