Equine NSAID Best Practices

Your veterinarian will decide which NSAID is best for your horse. Always adhere to his or her administration guidelines.

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Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are typically used to treat conditions such as the pain and inflammation associated with equine osteoarthritis. Unlike NSAIDs used in human medicine, like ibuprofen, which can be purchased over-the-counter, equine NSAIDs are only available with a veterinarian’s prescription.

When prescribing an NSAID, your veterinarian will consider the type needed for the horse’s specific ailment. Each horse and each ailment should be treated individually, depending on the horse’s individual response to the treatment. Fortunately, veterinarians have options when prescribing NSAIDs and will prescribe the best option for each individual horse. When deciding which medication to prescribe, veterinarians will take into account the ailment, the horse’s age and activity level, and the available routes of administration—different NSAIDs are available in a variety of forms including injection, topicals, paste, powder, or tablets.

Many NSAIDs work by impairing the inflammatory process by inhibiting the enzyme cyclooxygenase (COX), which are responsible for inflammatory responses in the body. There are two COX subtypes: COX-2 is primarily associated with inflammation while COX-1 is associated with “housekeeping” activities, like protecting the gastric mucosa. While NSAIDs that target both COX-1 and COX-2 have been used for years to treat equine osteoarthritis, another class of drug (the “coxibs”) only targets COX-2 and aim to spare COX-1 enzymes. Equioxx (the trade name for firocoxib) is the only coxib NSAID approved for use in horses in the United States and is approved for use in controlling pain and inflammation associated with equine osteoarthritis.

Even when a client gets their NSAIDs through a pharmacy or clinic, the veterinarian should be involved every time when determining if an NSAID should be used. Before administering a NSAID to your horse, describe the situation at hand and ask your veterinarian the following questions:

  1. What is the correct dosage and route of administration?
  2. How often should the medication be administered?
  3. When should I stop giving the medication?
  4. How long before the medication takes effect?
  5. Are there any side effects to this medication?
  6. Should this medication be given with any other medications?

When giving any NSAID, it’s important to check dosage and administration guidelines. Talk to your veterinarian about NSAID options for your horse.


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