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Hyaluronic Acid for Horses: How it Works in the Body to Support Healthy Joints

Hyaluronic Acid for Horses: How it Works in the Body to Support Healthy Joints

Hyaluronic acid for horses is an increasingly popular supplement, aimed at keeping joints healthy and reducing the symptoms of osteoarthritis. But the market is saturated with horse joint supplements proclaiming this and that, so how can you be sure it’s effective? Studies have proven the effectiveness of hyaluronic acid, so we’ve included it in our best-selling supplement, Foundation Daily Detox. And you can trust us that if an ingredient didn’t work, it would NOT be in our products. We will spend some time highlighting hyaluronic acid, what it is, how it’s made, and its benefits. You can be assured that your horse is only getting the best ingredients from Animal Element, always. Ready for a little science lesson?

What Exactly IS Hyaluronic Acid?

Hyaluronic acid (HA) is the main component of the slippery, gelatinous liquid that lubricates joints called synovial fluid. It’s also found in eyeballs to keep them moist. In the joints, hyaluronic acid acts as a cushion between the bones in the socket. This allows the bones to move without friction. It’s widely known in the human beauty and skincare industry as an “anti-aging” serum since it moisturizes and plumps up skin cells. Obviously, HA is more beneficial than that. “Functions of HA include the following: hydration, lubrication of joints, a space-filling capacity, and the framework through which cells migrate. The synthesis of HA increases during tissue injury and wound healing and HA regulates several aspects of tissue repair, including activation of inflammatory cells to enhance immune response and the response to injury of fibroblasts and epithelial cells.” [1]

In layman’s terms, hyaluronic acid aids in moisture retention in all cells of the horse’s body (not just skin). It also allows joints to move more freely, cushions tissues, and aids in injury and wound recovery. Some studies show HA reducing tumor progression and acting like a biological marker for immune issues and inflammatory diseases. Larger, heavier molecules of HA are used for tissue generation, ophthalmologic problems, and orthopedic therapies. Smaller molecules help with inflammation and immune responses.

Hyaluronic acid is non-immunogenic in vertebrates, which means it will not cause an immune response (i.e. allergic reaction) when introduced to the body. This makes it a relatively safe ingredient for supplements and medication. [2]

How is Hyaluronic Acid Made Artificially?

There are two main ways hyaluronic acid is engineered for medical and cosmetic uses. One method extracts HA from animal tissue like rooster combs or bovine synovial fluid. The other way is created through a fermentation process of the Streptococcus bacteria. 

Animal-derived HA has a high molecular weight, which is needed for use in ophthalmology and joint health. Unfortunately, the extraction processing is so intense that it can degrade the molecules and reduce the quantity and effectiveness of the hyaluronic acid. This process is also extremely costly and labor intensive, needing large facilities, chemicals, and employees. There are also questions of purity when working with animal cells, which can have devastating consequences on the health of your horse receiving the hyaluronic acid products. [3

Because of these numerous variables and potential risks, biotechnical creation in a lab has become the most common method of producing HA. “Production of HA by bacterial fermentation has evolved steadily over the past two decades. In its early stage of development, Group A and C Streptococci that naturally produced HA were grown in fermenters and HA was purified. However, as these bacteria produce a number of toxins, alternative bacteria were sought. Once the genes that encode for the HA biosynthetic pathway were determined, a number of bacteria (Bacillus, Agrobacterium, E. coli and Lactococcus) were genetically modified to express these genes and produce HA.” 

In recent years, there’s been a development in engineering hyaluronic acid using “cell-free production” or in-vitro. While it’s considered the safest option for production, cell-free expression systems cannot be mass-produced in the large quantities of HA that are demanded by the medical and cosmetic industries. [4]

What are the Benefits of Hyaluronic Acid for Horses?

HA is negatively charged and therefore can bond to large amounts of water. This ability helps keep ligaments and tendons flexible, reducing the risk of injury. Used at therapeutic levels, hyaluronic acid can reduce the inflammation and pain associated with degenerative bone disease, and reduce damage to cartilage and ligaments. Once bonded to water molecules, HA becomes a thick viscous gel that acts as a lubricant between the moving parts of the joints. This also cushions other tissues against impact. With inadequate lubrication, the bones will grind against each other causing wear and tear like fractures and chips, causing pain and swelling. 

According to The Cleveland Clinic, “Hyaluronic acid belongs to a type of long, complicated chain-like molecules called polymers. The chain has plenty of spots on it where other chemical compounds (like water, for example) can latch on. That’s why a quarter-teaspoon of hyaluronic acid can hold about one and a half gallons of water, making it the best polymer — natural or artificial — for absorbing water.” [5] So because it carries so much moisture, hyaluronic acid is also extremely beneficial to the skin and not just the joints. It’s been proven to speed up wound and injury healing and reduce the appearance of scars because it acts as building blocks for other cells. It’s also vital for eye health, as HA is the main moisturizer of the eyeball lens. 

HA Benefits The Digestive System Too

Recent studies have also shown that HA can be an effective treatment for, and protection against, gastric ulcers. Found throughout the digestive system, HA allows fluid to move in and out of the blood. It protects the lining of the intestines and the gastric mucosa, reducing the risk of ulcer damage, and allowing for already present ulcer sores to heal faster. [6

(If you’re new here we are big fans of taking great care of your horse’s digestive tract. Read this blog on gut health and this blog on the fore and hind gut for more.)

Potential Risks of Using Hyaluronic Acid

Due to its nature, hyaluronic acid has a very low potential for causing severe side effects. Even mild allergic reactions or gastric upset are pretty uncommon. The biggest risk for giving your horse a hyaluronic acid supplement is when it’s given by injection. Swelling and discomfort at the site of the injection are the most reported side effects, and most of the time they are mild. Despite the low risk, it is always advised to work with your vet team to determine the proper dose and best way to administer hyaluronic acid. 

Do Equine Athletes Actually Need HA?

Let’s face it, equine joints can take a beating. Even just running and playing in the pasture being active horses (as they should be) can be hard on their joints. Horses don’t even have to be elite equine athletes to need joint support or experience occasional joint stiffness. Natural aging can cause wear and tear on a horse’s joints and connective tissues. There are a lot of repetitive movements, exercises, and training required of performance horses. So it’s safe to assume that their connective tissue, joint fluid, and your horse’s joint overall will have to endure more impact and thus need more support.

Obviously, conformation, movement patterns, safe footing, equine health care, the horse’s diet, and proper training are all major factors in minimizing joint damage or other health issues. But why not support your horse’s joints and do all that you can to help alleviate bigger issues with a daily, very affordable, and effective supplement that includes high-quality HA?

What’s the Best Way to Give HA to Horses?

Hyaluronic acid for horses can be given orally or as an injection in the targeted joint. If horse owners choose to take their horses to their local performance horse veterinarian, chances are good that your vet will recommend injecting HA in combination with an anti-inflammatory drug such as cortizone directly into the joint to reduce joint pain.

 A study done in the early 2000s showed that oral HA proved to be more effective in reducing joint swelling post-op. (You can read the study here). Giving hyaluronic acid orally also reduces the risk of injection site infection AND is cheaper. Many horse owners focused on caring for their horses naturally decide to use oral HA supplements. The risk of joint infections, the few days of downtime after injections, and the high price (starting at $150 per joint) all contribute to this decision.

We include powdered hyaluronic acid in several of our supplements so that your horse can get the maximum benefit without adding more dietary supplements to your feed program. With the potential benefits greatly outweighing the potential risks and joint trauma, we think it is a pretty easy choice to make. Additionally, using HA  supplements instead of just waiting for joint injections at your next vet appointment helps to KEEP hyaluronic acid in your horse’s system and support joint health consistently. As we all know, consistency is a vital component of keeping horses healthy and feeling good. 

What AE Supplements Contain Hyaluronic Acid?

We added hyaluronic acid to our Foundation Daily Detox and Finish 1st Advanced Joint Formula. The All Creatures formulation also has HA since our canine partners can also benefit from it. So if your horse is already on FDD, they are reaping the benefits of not only the detox ingredients but also the joint-friendly ingredients like hyaluronic acid. If your performance horse could use a little more help with their joints, it’s safe to add Finish 1st to their feed program. But of course, we strongly recommend checking with your vet first. 

Questions? Don’t Hesitate to Reach Out

Whatever choice you make regarding your equine joint health and keeping your horses feeling their best, we want you to make an informed decision. 

If you haven’t started your horses on Animal Element yet, head straight to our website and order Foundation Daily Detox and NuTrack Digestive Support to see the health changes almost immediately! If you are curious about becoming an authorized dealer for Animal Element, please contact Mark Kaylor at (509) 301-1798.


All content is intended for informational purposes only. Please consult with your veterinarian. Proudly written for Animal Element by the team at


  1. Papakonstantinou, Eleni et al. “Hyaluronic Acid: A Key Molecule in Skin Aging,” Dermatoendocrinology. 2012 Jul 1; 4(3): 253–258. Accessed online at: on March 25, 2024
  2. Sze, Jun Hui et al., “ Biotechnological Production of Hyaluronic Acid: a Mini Review,” 3 Biotech. 2016 Jun; 6(1): 67. Accessed online at:,bacterial%20expression%20systems%20in%20Streptococcus. On March 25, 2024.
  3. Sze, Jun Hui et al., “ Biotechnological Production of Hyaluronic Acid: a Mini Review,” 3 Biotech. 2016 Jun; 6(1): 67. Accessed online at:,bacterial%20expression%20systems%20in%20Streptococcus. On March 25, 2024.
  4. Sze, Jun Hui et al., “ Biotechnological Production of Hyaluronic Acid: a Mini Review,” 3 Biotech. 2016 Jun; 6(1): 67. Accessed online at:,bacterial%20expression%20systems%20in%20Streptococcus. On March 25, 2024.
  5. “Hyaluronic Acid,” The Cleveland Clinic. May 4, 2022. Accessed online at: on March 25, 2024.
  6. Slovis, Nathan “Polysaccharide Treatment Reduces Gastric Ulceration in

Active Horses,” Journal of Equine Veterinary Science, 2016 Nov. Accessed online at: on March 27, 2024