A common approach to lameness in the equine athlete is non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) treatments, such as phenylbutazone (PBZ, Bute) or flunixin meglumine (FM, Banamine) alone or sometimes in combination. At the 2011 American Association of Equine Practitioners convention, held Nov. 18-22 in San Antonio, Jonathan Foreman, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVIM, of the University of Illinois, discussed the effect of these medications on lameness when used at a normal recommended dose with these strategies and whether combining the drugs confers any special effects.

Reversible lameness was induced in eight Thoroughbred horses by using an adjustable heart bar shoe that could be tightened with a screw to elicit severe non-weight-bearing lameness. After an hour of the shoe application, Foreman and his colleagues treated the horses with one or both drugs: PBZ at 4.4 mg/kg, FM at 1.1 mg/kg, or PBZ + FM at these same dosages. In line with findings from previous studies, the team found that peak effect of these drugs occurred four hours following administration.

The team measured heart rates as an indicator of pain since, as explained by Foreman, heart rate is a primary variable that is elevated in lame horses following exercise workouts. All NSAID treatments decreased heart rates for two to 10 hours after administration, while lameness scores decreased for 1.3-12 hours. Heart rate reduction indicative of pain relief lasted for 12 hours after giving FM alone and the combination of PBZ plus FM. Lameness scores decreased more quickly for PBZ or PBZ + FM combo-treated horses than for FM. Foreman concluded, "No significant differences were noted between giving PBZ alone or combining FM with PBZ."