Supplements, Tiludronate, and Bone Health in Horses

Although joints receive the lion’s share of attention when it comes to keeping performance horses sound, bone health remains an important factor in athletic longevity.

“The skeleton is at its most robust when old bone is resorbed and new bone laid down in a timely manner. Conditions in which an imbalance in degradation and synthesis occur contribute to pain, lameness, and potentially puts the horse at risk of fracture,†explained Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a nutritionist for Kentucky Equine Research (KER). “Two examples are bone bruising and navicular disease.â€

In addition to appropriate training regimens, diet plays an important role in healthy bone formation. Calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and other minerals and vitamins contribute to skeletal strength. In certain horses, nutritional supplements containing these ingredients could make the difference between sound and lame.

“KER designed DuraPlex to support the maintenance of bone mineral density and bone area in performance and growing horses. This product provides the appropriate proteins, vitamins, and minerals necessary for strong bone development, and prevents demineralization of bone during stall rest or when limited turnout is available,†Crandell said.

Bisphosphonate drugs, such as tiludronate, can be also be used in certain horses to maintain bone health, as they decrease bone resorption. “The only FDA-approved use of tiludronate in horses is the control of navicular syndrome, usually in conjunction with corrective shoeing,†Crandell explained.

Veterinarians often use certain medications “off label,†meaning they have found therapeutic value in drugs for problems beyond the conditions they were intended to treat. With this in mind, veterinarians also use tiludronate for bone spavin and other bone-related conditions.

According to a recent study, timing of tiludronate administration is important to avoid positive drug tests. The researchers indicated that the pharmacokinetics (how the drug is distributed and metabolized in the body) vary between healthy sedentary horses and athletic horses involved in competition. Additional work in this field to establish ideal drug detection limits and establish withdrawal guidelines are therefore warranted.

“As described by the manufacturer, several important adverse effects can occur following tiludronate administration. Be certain to review these details carefully prior to using the medication, and consider alternatives, such as the nutritional supplement DuraPlex, especially for those horses involved in athletic pursuits,†advised Crandell.

Another beneficial supplement for bone health is Triacton, scientifically proven to improve bone density and support digestive health in horses. With specific regard to its skeletal benefits, Triacton  contains a  highly digestible source of calcium and an array of other bone-building nutrients.

In Australia, look for Bone Food Plus and Triacton.

*Popot, M.A., M. Jacobs, P. Garcia, et al. Pharmacokinetics of tiludronate in horses: A field population study. Equine Veterinary Journal. In press.