In the face of new racing medication rules, veterinarians are revisiting treatment approaches for injured animals on layup that trainers hope to send back to the track soon. At the American Association of Equine Practitioners’ Convention, held Dec. 7-11 in Nashville, Tenn., Wayne McIlwraith, BVSc, PhD, Dipl. ACVS, ACVSMR, described how these restrictions will impact management of traumatic arthritis and osteoarthritis, specifically.

Historically, administering intra-articular (directly into the joint) corticosteroids has been the treatment of choice to curb pain and swelling. McIlwraith, of the Colorado State University Equine Orthopaedic Research Center, in Ft. Collins, said that the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium (RMTC) has renewed interest in reviewing the timing of joint injections relative to racing. The current, newly drafted recommendation is to prohibit intra-articular corticosteroid injections within seven days preceding a race, along with imposing a 72-hour withdrawal time (meaning the horse cannot receive the medication within 72 hours of a race) on systemic administration of dexamethasone and other short-acting corticosteroids.

Rather than placing these new regulations into immediate effect, the consortium is providing a grace period over the next year to allow “time for veterinarians to adjust their practices and for trainers to adjust training strategies.” The objective of this new RMTC ruling is to facilitate complete compliance with the new regulations in an effort to protect the horses, jockeys, and drivers (in the case of harness racing). He pointed out that other countries–New Zealand and nations in Europe, for example–have previously examined these concerns and have implemented stricter drug restrictions with success.

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