Two-thirds of Vets surveyed concerned about frequency of racehorse joint injections


It is a lengthy article. We quote just a few paragraphs here.

by Dr. Stacey Oke | 01.31.2022

In total, 407 equine practitioners participated in the survey, the majority of which worked with racehorses (Thoroughbreds, Quarter Horses) and Warmbloods. Those veterinarians had extensive (>20 years) of clinical experience from which to draw their survey answers from.

Here are some of the most important take-away points garnered from the survey applicable to Thoroughbred racehorses.

Frequency of Injection

Approximately two-thirds of veterinarians were concerned about treating joints too frequently with corticosteroids for fear of causing harm, presumably to the articular cartilage.

About 75% of responding veterinarians said that they believed joints can be damaged by treating too frequently.

“About 75% of responding veterinarians said that they believed joints can be damaged by treating too frequently. Most believe you can inject a joint once only every six months, whereas 30% of practitioners say you can do it every three months,” said Zanotto.

Despite these beliefs/recommendations suggested by practitioners on the survey, Zanotto says, “There is no strong scientific evidence regarding minimum frequency of joint injections.”

Steroid Selection

Triamcinolone and methylprednisolone are used most often in high- and low-motion joints by equine veterinarians, respectively. Nonetheless, almost three-quarters of practitioners still feel that triamcinolone is either somewhat likely or very likely to contribute to laminitis. As a result, survey respondents reported using limited amounts of triamcinolone, both in a single joint and as a total dose per horse. Based on the survey, most practitioners reported using 5-10 mg triamcinolone in a single joint and 20-40 mg of methylprednisolone. Most practitioners use less than 40 mg of triamcinolone per horse, and about 50% used no more than 18 mg triamcinolone per horse.

Based on scientific evidence, however, Zanotto said, “Triamcinolone does not appear to increase the risk of laminitis in healthy horses, and a safe total body dose has not yet been established.”

Antibiotic (Ab)use

In this survey, 55.6% of veterinarians admitted to always using an antibiotic such as amikacin when injecting medication into a joint. Perhaps more disquieting was the fact that the number of veterinarians using an antibiotic when medicating a joint actually increased from a similar survey in conducted back in 2009.

This increased use of antibiotics is an alarming finding because there is evidence that amikacin is toxic to cartilage cells.

“This increased use of antibiotics is an alarming finding because there is evidence that amikacin is toxic to cartilage cells, as well as increased concern regarding antibiotic resistance,” explained Zanotto.

Read the whole ghastly report here.

Managing Your Horse’s Joints with Injections, Dressage Today, April 2020 »


“ . . . joint-care management in the dressage horse should be proactive throughout the horse’s career. Intra-articular therapy, commonly referred to as joint injections, is an important component.

Dr. Cricket Russillo, who practices with Virginia Equine Imaging and specializes in equine lameness with a focus on the elite performance horse, explains: “Joint injections are a procedure whereby a veterinarian places a needle inside a synovial structure and administers medication.”

Russillo, who has herself competed through Third Level, also explains that there are two reasons for joint-injection procedures. The first is to administer a local anesthetic into the joint capsule. This is a diagnostic procedure commonly known as blocking, where the goal of the procedure is to isolate the source of a lameness.

The second is to administer intra-articular therapy, a procedure that requires the veterinarian administer a corticosteroid or alternative medication with similar effect into the joint with the purpose of reducing or preventing inflammation.

Russillo explains that the frequency, type and location of injections vary from horse to horse and depend largely on his level of use. “For a dressage horse in average work, we may treat the coffin joints and the lower hock joints,” explains Russillo. “When horses get to the upper levels, they often begin to need support in the stifle or sacroiliac joints as well.” Read more »

We say: They are all at it; not just horse racing. Wherever horses are used in competition, some or all of the above you just read appears to be a common occurrence.

Tuesday’s Horse

Official Blog of The Fund for Horses

3 thoughts on “Two-thirds of Vets surveyed concerned about frequency of racehorse joint injections”

  1. The vets who work in the racehorse industry know only too well the damage caused by the constant and frequent joint injections to the racehorses. They’ve been doing it for decades.
    The spotlight is on the racehorse industry for all the wrong reasons and now they say they have ‘concern’ about the frequency of joint injections. Please.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I’m not “liking” this series of articles and what I’ve read, nor am I condoning vets’ use of these injections, antibiotics, etc., or anyone else’s. I merely like to let people know that I learn so, so much from your articles. I’ll continue to read them so as to acquire as much knowledge as possible about the health and welfare of horses in general, in particular, as some of it pertains to our own beloved Tennessee Walkers.


    1. We understand. We don’t “like” much of what we post. But as you say, we all need to stay informed. Thank you being part of what we do and following Tuesday’s Horse.


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