Meperidine Effective but Short Lasting for Foot Pain Control

Meperidine might provide a suitable alternative to NSAIDs for treating equine foot pain in some cases.
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Tradition might reign supreme in some cases, but when it comes to equine pain control researchers are seeking different—and sometimes safer—drugs to use in a variety of circumstances.

Veterinarians often prescribe traditionally used non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)—such as phenylbutazone (PBZ, Bute), flunixin meglumine (FM, Banamine), and ketoprofen (Ketofen)—for analgesia. But such drugs carry potentially dangerous side effects, including toxicity, ulcer development, decreased plasma protein levels, and renal (kidney) disease.

University of Illinois veterinarians recently tested an alternative to traditional NSAIDs—meperidine, marketed as Demerol—for its ability to treat foot pain in horses. During a presentation at the 2013 American Association of Equine Practitioners’ Convention, held Dec. 7011 in Nashville, Tenn., Jonathan H. Foreman, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVIM, said that while the opioid drug appears effective at treating foot pain, it might have some drawbacks, as well.

To test the drug’s efficacy, Foreman and colleagues induced reversible lameness in eight healthy Thoroughbreds by using an adjustable heart bar shoe that could be tightened with a screw to elicit lameness ranging from mild to severe. Then, they randomly assigned each horse to receive either 1 mg/kg of body weight intramuscular (IM) meperidine or saline (to serve as controls) one hour after lameness induction. They monitored the horses’ heart rates and lameness scores every 20 minutes for five hours, then hourly for eight hours. The team also collected blood samples from the horses before treatments, five minutes after treatment, and one, two, four, six, eight, 10, and 12 hours after treatment

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Erica Larson, former news editor for The Horse, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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