Joint health in the working animal

    Joint disease causes severe pain and limitation of movement in many working dogs and horses. Homoeopathic treatment offers a humane, non-toxic and economic approach to the maintenance and restoration of function. Dr Alex Niven describes some basic joint problems and indicates which remedies should be considered in their alleviation.

    Look at what we have done to animals. We have stretched them, squashed them, dwarfed them and sat on them. We have manipulated them into shapes that suit us, from little Yorkies to huge Clydesdales. We have messed around with their exercise and subjected them to incorrect diets. Is it not remarkable that some of them manage to remain sound?


    Let us consider how joints are affected by exercise. In order to perform, a pony or dog has to be capable of sudden and rapid acceleration, and it must stop and turn quickly. It is natural for animals to react in this manner by turning and twisting, and this is particularly obvious when watching juveniles running and playing in a large area.

    Inappropriate exercise fatigues the musculoskeletal system which cannot then withstand the enormous forces of flexion and extension that maximum exercise demands. Experience shows that homeopathy is capable of making a significant contribution to the prevention and treatment of injuries. It is important for us, as pet owners or trainers, to be aware of the fact that individual remedies may be relevant in the management of specific lameness problems.


    Science clearly understands that a foot, particularly that of the horse, is a dynamic structure with a massive blood supply. Horses need adequate exercise/movement in order to maintain a healthy blood circulation in the foot thereby avoiding unwanted complications.

    There are homeopathic remedies devised for the development of the healthy capillary structures required to provide maximum tissue nutrition for the maintenance of healthy horn. If the circulation is inadequate, the horn, which is structurally similar to the human nail, becomes brittle and tends to crumble. These problem feet always respond well to homeopathy. In crippling conditions such as laminitis (caused by inflammation of tissues in the hoof) and seedy toe (a separation of the horse’s hoof wall from the underlying sensitive tissue) it can save lives.

    Joint health in the working animal


    The better the basic conformation, i.e. as nature intended, the more opportunity there is for the joint and its supporting structures (namely capsule), cartilage and ligaments to strengthen.

    It is important that all animals be fit before working. That sounds logical, and yet experience clearly indicates that this is not always the case. Remember that fitness to withstand the strains of torsion (twisting) does demand that preparatory exercise be performed of a torsional nature.

    Walking or trotting can lead to reasonable fitness, but is insufficient to allow the joints the opportunity required to build up protection against torsion.

    Polo ponies that twist and turn during performance need similar exercise as part of their training schedule in order to strengthen those supporting structures. There are homeopathic remedies with proven ability to prevent and treat muscle and ligament damage – such remedies are important in the treatment of any soft tissue damage in the joint.


    Working animals are more affected by ‘wear and tear’, classified as degenerative joint disease (DJD). They show radiological changes and often experience pain and reduced joint flexion or mobility. These changes in turn lead to abnormal movement of the entire body, resulting in continued joint deterioration.

    An appreciation of homoeopathy as holistic medicine encourages one to consider that arthritis is not the disease, but rather it is the animal that is in a state of dis-ease, with arthritis merely one of its signs (symptoms in humans!).

    Joint deformity results in a distortion and adjustment of stride length, and, in an attempt to minimise damage and control pain, this leads to strain of other joints, particularly those of the spine as posture adjusts in an attempt to protect the individual. Homeopathic remedies for arthritis play a significant role in treatment. Many horses, such as the great race horse Follow the Falcon, have performed to their full capacity on this type of medication. In fact this fellow raced well over 100 times, winning many races on joints declared to be worn out until homeopathy helped him.


    Bone is a dynamic structure full of life, and an integral component of joints. Thus conditions such as navicular disease (inflammation or degeneration of the navicular bone in the foot of most mammals), ringbone (osteoarthritis of the pastern joint in horses), and splints (a hard swelling the size of a pea on the inside of the lower leg of a horse) are not hopeless.

    Many young horses beginning their basic training as two-year-olds appreciate the increased strength that homeopathy gives to their skeletal structures. The longer I am in practice the more convinced I become that we must do more to prevent problems developing. By ensuring a solid foundation in our young stock we can prevent many problems in the future.


    Homeopathy helps prepare and protect working animals. A knowledge of this maintains soundness and improves fitness. Homoeopathy works through promoting healing rather than by merely suppressing pain.

    Enjoy Dr Niven's book The Cow at the Window. Available from Amazon

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