Hyaluronic acid is frequently used to increase the slipperiness and cushioning inside the joint, as well as provide the building blocks for connective tissue.
Is oral absorbable?
High molecular weight HA is absorbed when fed orally(1). Field studies have shown that administering HA as a gel via syringe had a better effect. This is because you know that the horse actually ingested all of it and it was less likely to adhere to hay particles. Once absorbed radioactive tagging has shown that it is found primarily in the joints, bone, muscles, and skin.
Is it enough?
Many HA supplements recommend a serving size to be 50 mg or 100 mg. However, Dr. Eleanor Kellon has recommended that the amount be 100-300 mg or even higher for inflamed joints. Dr. Grant Miller had the opinion that 250 mg was necessary (4). With many commercial HA supplements, the horse isn’t getting enough of the HA.
Types of HA:
Low molecular weight: Low molecular weight HA is inexpensive and frequently used in cosmetics. It’s also useful to improve skin conditions, especially for wrinkle control.
High molecular weight: High molecular weight HA has been studied to be more effective in joint arthritis than low molecular weight (2). It is anti-inflammatory.
Does it work?
Although there are many conflicting studies as to the efficacy of oral HA, one study in particular stands out that showed effectiveness in dogs (3).
What are popular alternatives?
- Chondroitin sulfate
Take Home Message:
- Be sure that you administer enough HA – at least 100-300 mg of HA.
- Be sure that it is high molecular weight, as that has been shown to be more effective.
- Know that with supplementing your horse with oral HA, you will not see an immediate change, but instead, will see a greater comfort level over days or weeks.
- Balogh L, Polyak A, Mathe D, Kiraly R, Thuroczy J, Terez M, et al. Absorption, uptake and tissue affinity of high-molecular-weight hyaluronan after oral administration in rats and dogs. J Agric Food Chem. 2008;56(22):10582-93.
- Lu KH, Lu PW, Lin CW, Lu EW, Yang SF. Different molecular weights of hyaluronan research in knee osteoarthritis: A state-of-the-art review. Matrix Biol. 2023;117:46-71.
- Serra Aguado CI, Ramos-Plá JJ, Soler C, Segarra S, Moratalla V, Redondo JI. Effects of Oral Hyaluronic Acid Administration in Dogs Following Tibial Tuberosity Advancement Surgery for Cranial Cruciate Ligament Injury. Animals (Basel). 2021;11(5).
- Miller, Grant. The Search for an Affordable, Trustable Joint Product. Horse Journal. 2012;19-1:1-5