One of the most important tools in an equine practitioner’s kit is his or her collection of anti-inflammatory medications to reduce pain, swelling, fever, and lameness. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) come in many forms, but usually as intravenous or oral (paste, powder, tablet) formulations. These medications are relatively inexpensive and can be very effective within hours of administration.

Alastair Cribb, DVM, PhD, dean and professor of Pharmacology at the University of Calgary, in Alberta, reviewed NSAID options for use in horses at the 2015 American Association of Equine Practitioner’s Convention, held Dec. 5-9 in Las Vegas.

He reviewed with veterinarians how NSAIDs work primarily through blocking cyclooxygenase (COX) enzymes—in a nutshell, the process responsible for inflammatory response. There are two forms of NSAIDs:

  • Those that are nonselective and inhibit production of all prostaglandins (hormone-like products the body produces), including COX-1, which is important for maintaining health of the intestinal lining and blood flow through the kidneys; and
  • The newer selective inhibitors, including firocoxib and meloxicam, which only target inflammation-causing COX-2 prostaglandins.

General Effects of NSAIDs

Cribb listed the NSAIDs currently approved for use in horses: flunixin meglumine (Banamine), phenylbutazone (PBZ, Bute), ketoprofen, firocoxib, aspirin, and topical diclofenac cream. He added meloxicam to his discussion because while it is currently not labeled for