"If only he’d stand still and keep quiet!" Many situations faced by horse owners and trainers would be far easier to manage if a temperamental horse would do this, and it might be tempting to initiate long-term sedation when confinement, stall rest, and tractability are necessary. But one veterinarian explained that sometimes the drawbacks of a commonly used human drug preclude its use in horses.
At the 2011 American Association of Equine Practitioners convention, held Nov. 18-22 in San Antonio, Texas , John Baird, BVSc, PhD of the University of Guelph described the side effects that might occur following use of a long-acting antipsychotic drug, fluphenazine decanoate,
This drug is used to treat humans with schizophrenia and is considered a performance enhancer by racing jurisdictions and show organizations. It’s been known to cause a variety of adverse side effects, with one of the most notable adverse effects, Baird said, being dystonia, a condition characterized by abnormal involuntary muscle movements. Fluphenazine binds to dopamine receptors located in the extra-pyramidal system (part of the nervous system that controls movements), resulting in a blockage of the brain’s dopamine pathways. This results in sustained muscle contractions which presents as peculiar postures and twisting of body parts. The drug also can elicit repetitive patterned movements, particularly of the neck, back, face, and tongue. Affected horses might also display akathisia–restlessness and a need to move, particularly the legs, coupled with anxiety or agitation.
Baird stressed that fluphenazine is highly potent and able to cross the blood