Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, (NSAIDs) are used extensively in equine veterinary practice. As a class of drugs, their therapeutic value improves quality of life and healing for thousands of horses every year.
The NSAIDS most commonly used in equine veterinary practice, in order of frequency of use are: phenylbutazone, flunixin meglumine (Banamine), firocoxib, salicylic acid (aspirin), ketoprofen, and meclofenamic acid.
Generally, drugs in this class block the inflammatory cascade by blocking enzymes that are required for the formation of certain prostaglandins. In doing this, they reduce pain, fever and swelling. In lameness cases, the lameness improves. But there are costs to this. Some prostaglandins have “housekeeping” protective roles in the body (particularly in the kidney and intestinal tract). Many NSAIDS eliminate these “good prostaglandins” as well as the “bad prostaglandins of inflammation”, exposing these organs to injury.
Understand the effectiveness and potential dangers of NSAID’s in horses, and consult with your vet regarding their role in your horse’s health. Ask your vet how to evaluate the condition that you are treating, so that you know how much this treatment is helping.
Your vet’s role is to select the right NSAID for the situation, and to follow up with you to ensure that the medication is having the desired effect, without obvious side-effects.
This Treatment Might be used for a horse exhibiting these signsRelated Observations
Related DiagnosesThis Treatment Might Be Used for these Diagnoses
Consider Potential Side Effects & Complications
Sadly, these drugs are misused throughout the equine competitive world.
Misuse or overuse of NSAIDs can cause intestinal ulcers or kidney damage. These effects can be life-threatening.
When you choose to administer these drugs to your horse, understand that you are masking the body's natural pain response. When you do that and then ask your horse to perform, they may overload a structure that is already damaged, risking severe injury. Even when you are treating your horse with NSAID's under the guidance of a veterinarian, do not forget this serious risk.
Ask yourself this question: If one of your car tires had 5 broken lug bolts and only one left holding the tire on, would you be willing to patch it together with duct tape and drive 180 miles per hour?
Generally, multiple NSAID's are not used simultaneously, because the danger of side effects often outweighs any additional benefits.
Consider Reasons Not To Use This Treatment
Used very cautiously in foals, in horses with kidney or intestinal disease, or in horses that are dehydrated. Some NSAIDS are safer than others in these patients.
It is illegal in many competitive disciplines for there to be detectable levels of NSAID's in blood samples.
Skills I might need
Is It working? Timeframe for effect
Minutes to hours. The onset and length of effect depends on the particular NSAID and on route of administration, oral, IM, IV.
Questions To Ask My Vet
- What level of performance is in the best interests of my horse's long-term health?
- Which of the NSAIDS is the most appropriate for my horse?
- What are the precautions for use of that particular NSAID?
- How can I judge the effectiveness of this treatment?
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