Your Guide to Equine Health Care

NSAIDs: Helpful or Harmful for Horses?

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs serve an important role in managing equine pain and inflammation, but sometimes they can do more harm than good.

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NSAIDs: Helpful or Harmful for Horses?
Each horse responds to NSAIDs different and because of their inherent risks, these drugs should always be used with a veterinarian’s advice. | Photo: Erica Larson/The Horse

These drugs are an integral part of your veterinarian’s pain- and inflammation-fighting arsenal, but sometimes they do more harm than good

One of the most distressing things about horse ownership is seeing your beloved animal in pain. Whether it be colic- or lameness-related, your first instinct is to try to relieve the discomfort. Many horse owners have  medications that their veterinarians have prescribed to manage their horses’ pain in these instances. But is administering these  always the best decision? Could doing so cause more harm than good?

The most commonly administered medications for treating painful conditions in horses are phenylbutazone (Bute), flunixin meglumine (Banamine), ketoprofen (Ketofen), and firocoxib (Equioxx). These are classified as non-steroidal ­anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs.

“Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are used for their analgesic (pain-eliminating) and anti-inflammatory properties,” says Anthony Blikslager, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVS, professor of equine surgery and gastroenterology at North Carolina State University, in

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Written by:

Samantha Miles, BVM&S, MRCVS, is an associate with Palm Beach Equine Clinic, in Wellington, Florida.

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