Joint Supplements for Horses: A Review of MSM, Glucosamine and Other “Typical” Ingredients

Horse eating Joint Supplement from Owner's Hand

Due to the risk of over-supplementation, horse owners must be cautious of the ingredients used when supplementing for hoof and joint health. Joint supplements containing glucosamine, hyaluronic acid, chondroitin sulfate, and MSM are often given in addition to hoof supplements. These ingredients are typically “thought of” when discussing nutrition for joint health, but do they make a difference? How do they affect your horse when given with other supplements?

Supplementing Horses with sulfur from MSM vs. sulfur-containing amino acids

Synthetic MSM contains about 34% sulfur and is manufactured via a chemical reaction involving DMSO (dimethyl sulfoxide) and hydrogen peroxide. A refinement process is necessary to remove any impurities and toxic by-products from the MSM following the chemical reaction.

Excess sulfur in the diet has been shown to block the proper absorption of copper in many species. Copper and Vitamin C are necessary to form collagen to build the healthy connective tissue essential for strong hooves and joints. Reduced copper absorption from excessive sulfur supplementation will produce the opposite of the intended, resulting in diminished hoof and joint health.

Methionine and cystine are the two sulfur-containing amino acids. Quality hoof supplements contain these amino acids. Rather than MSM, methionine and cysteine are the sources of the sulfur needed to build healthy connective tissue for strong hooves.

Excessive sulfur supplementation often occurs when feeding a hoof supplement and a joint supplement concurrently. As a rule, when feeding a hoof supplement containing methionine, do not add a joint supplement containing MSM.

Farrier’s Formula® DS Plus Joint is a balanced Hoof and Joint supplement formulated with methionine and cysteine to provide the sulfur needed for Hoof and Joint support. Feeding Farrier’s Formula® DS Plus Joint eliminates the risk of sulfur over-supplementation.

Glucosamine in Joint Supplements for Horses

Glucosamine
Glucosamine is often included in Equine Joint Supplements.

Equine joint supplements usually contain glucosamine. Glucosamine is a specialized form of sugar the body utilizes for cartilage development. Although glucosamine is not directly converted to glucose, supplementation at higher levels has been implicated in increasing insulin secretion because the body thinks there is excess glucose in the bloodstream. As a precautionary measure, avoiding glucosamine administration may be recommended for horses with metabolic issues or recurring bouts of laminitis. 

Due to this risk, a few Joint supplement manufacturers have elected to remove Glucosamine as an ingredient. Farrier’s Formula® DS Plus Joint is frequently used for horses recovering from laminitis and laminitis-prone horses. Farrier’s Formula® DS Plus Joint does not contain Glucosamine.

Hyaluronic Acid for Equine Joints

Hyaluronic acid has proven beneficial when injected. However, little evidence exists when given orally that the compound is absorbed intact through the equine intestines or makes its way to the joints. Supplementing hyaluronic acid may or may not have benefits to the joint. Farrier’s Formula® DS Plus Joint does not contain hyaluronic acid.

Chondroitin Sulfate in Equine Joint Supplements

Chondroitin sulfate is derived from animals or marine life. Animal-derived ingredients or animal-origin ingredients increase the risk of contamination with harmful bacteria or other unsafe compounds when added to feed products. There is also little evidence that supplementing chondroitin sulfate to horses benefits the joints. Farrier’s Formula® DS Plus Joint does not contain Chondroitin.

Farrier’s Formula® DS Plus Joint

Farrier's Formula DS Plus Joint
Farrier’s Formula® DS Plus Joint Rebuilds Hoof and Joint Health

To address these issues, Life Data® developed Farrier’s Formula® DS Plus Joint. Farrier’s Formula® DS Plus Joint does not contain MSM, chondroitin sulfate, hyaluronic acid, or glucosamine. Farrier’s Formula® DS Plus Joint also contains the correct level of sulfur provided organically by methionine and cystine.

Farrier’s Formula® DS Plus Joint is effective by strengthening the connective tissue of the ligaments surrounding the joints and rebuilding cartilage. Ornithine, an active ingredient in the product, works with arginine in the urea cycle to reduce ammonia levels. Ammonia is converted to urea. Urea has notable detrimental effects on the joints and cartilage, even at low levels. Long-term excessive urea levels in humans lead to gout.

Proline is another active ingredient. It is an amino acid that gives ligaments “stretch,” providing additional motion for the joints and making ligaments and joints less susceptible to injury and the resulting inflammation. People commonly take Proline to decrease joint pain.

Manganese is another ingredient in Farrier’s Formula® DS Plus Joint and is an essential component of cartilage. The product has many more ingredients to build and support the joints, hooves, and skin connective tissue.

Farrier’s Formula® DS Plus Joint works with a unique and different approach to joint care. It also provides all the benefits to hoof health that our original Farrier’s Formula® Double Strength provides to the horse. When providing Farrier’s Formula® DS Plus Joint, horse owners can take comfort in knowing they are promoting the health of their horse’s hooves and joints with a balanced product backed by years of research.