Your veterinarian may prescribe a NSAID (non-steroid anti-inflammatory) such as phenylbutazone (found in Abutazone) when your horse is injured or running a fever. The primary use of a NSAID is to reduce swelling. When your equine baby is injured, the damaged tissue releases many different chemicals into the tissue around the injury and into the blood stream. Some of those chemicals will cause inflammation while others will do things like summoning white blood cells to battle to fight infection. Swelling, unfortunately, can cause pain and sometimes interfere with healing, so we’ll dose some equine NSAIDs to help reduce the pain causing swelling. How the medication goes about this requires some of that long, complicated medical talk that we horse people are so fond of using.
There’s no real short and easy explanation on this one, so get comfy. NSAIDs inhibit the enzymes the body needs to make prostaglandins. The inhibited enzymes are called cyclooxygenases. (I’m glad I only have to type this and not say this!) There are three types known of this type; COX-1, COX-2 and COX-3. If your hooved darling isn’t making as many prostaglandins then their fever, pain and inflammation are reduced. The two most common equine NSAIDs are flunixin meglumine (commonly called Banamine) and the previously mentioned phenylbutazone (commonly known as Bute.) These two anti-inflammatories are known as ‘general COX inhibitors.’ This is a fancy way of saying they hinder all the COX enzymes. So what do the individual COX enzymes do? Glad you asked! COX-1 is involved in many of the normal bodily functions of your horse such as the production of gastric mucus. (And anyone who has dealt with a colicky horse knows how important that is!) COX-2 is involved in creating the prostaglandins that create inflammation and pain. COX-3, meanwhile, as a part of building a fever at the cerebral level.
Needless to say, which equine NSAID you want to give your horse depends on what their symptoms and problems are. Bute works best on orthopedic pain, like what you’d find with ligament and tendon damage or osteoarthritis. Banamine, meanwhile, is typically administered to colicky horses as it best deals with abdominal pain. Of course, all medications have side-effects!
This is where it becomes quite important to work with your veterinarian to figure out doses and length of time to give your horse the medication. NSAIDs can cause stomach issues such as diarrhoea, colic, and even ulcers. They can also cause problems with the kidneys, just like in humans. Pre-existing conditions can be made worse with NSAIDs. Always give your vet full disclosure about your horse’s medical history and what medications and supplements they are currently taking or have recently taken.
If you veterinarian decides that Bute is the answer for your horse’s inflammation pain, Abler offers it in easy to dose, easy to track, orange granules. Many in the horse community refer to them as ‘pop rocks’ and they work!