Many equine caretakers have given or received these suggestions time and time again: "Just give him some Bute," or "a little Banamine should do the trick." While the use of these medications—both non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs—are indicated in some cases, it’s not uncommon for the substances to be overused. At the 2012 Western Veterinary Conference, held Feb. 19-23 in Las Vegas, Nev., one veterinarian discussed when NSAID use is indicated and what can go wrong if the drugs are overused.

As Elizabeth G. Davis, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM, associate professor and equine section head at the Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine, explained, NSAIDs have become "extremely commonplace" in the horse industry. This class of medication is known for its anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, she said, and is often used clinically to "improve patient status and minimize pain."

Some of the most popular systemic NSAIDs veterinarians and horse owners use are phenylbutazone (PZB or Bute), flunixin meglumine (Banamine), and firocoxib (Equioxx). Also gaining popularity is diclofenac sodium (Surpass), which is a topical NSAID. Other less commonly used but still effective NSAIDs are ketoprofen (Ketofen) and etodolac (Etogesic), Davis added.

Indicators for use include, but aren’t limited to, pain management for injuries or illnesses, pain management for chronic disease (such as osteoarthritis or laminitis); and fever control.

How Do They Work?

"The mechanism of action for NSAIDs is important to understand, particularly when we conside