As always, it is essential to consult with a veterinarian before administering any medication to your horse. Certain medications are perfectly safe for racehorses, but some should be avoided at all costs if you would like to see your horse cross the finish line in one piece.
Phenylbutazone, or bute for short, is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) that has become incredibly popular among racehorse owners. Bute effectively reduces inflammation caused by strenuous exercise and can be helpful in post-surgical cases as well. One of the primary dangers associated with bute is that it can cause “bleeding.” While some bleeding is normal, a severe case of bleeding could cause the horse to faint and fall during a race.
Recently, Bute was banned from competition horses in some countries, including Australia and France. In the United States, the drug remains legal for both human and animal use, but it is monitored very carefully by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).
In recent years, there have been fatalities due to bleeding associated with bute. While bute does not directly kill racehorses, like the equine drug Lasix, it may put them in life-threatening danger. In particular, “bleeding” can cause a racehorse to faint during a race and fall.
It is dangerous because the rider of the horse may be unable to regain control of the horse in time to avoid a fatal collision with any number of stationary objects on or near the track!
How it works:
Bute is an NSAID, which means that it works by inhibiting the production of prostaglandins because prostaglandins play a part in the contraction and relaxation of muscles but reduce muscle pain and inflammation.
What to expect:
Bute should not be administered to a racehorse before a race because it could increase bleeding risk during the race. You should also avoid using bute on a horse that may have a fever. Bute should never be used on a cold or sick horse because it can cause severe internal bleeding and even death!
What to do instead:
There are several alternatives for veterinarians when treating racehorses with an injury or fever, veterinarians may use a common over-the-counter painkiller called phenylbutazone. This drug is also an NSAID and has been used for years to treat injuries in racehorses. However, some veterinarians believe that this drug is not as effective as the prescription drug flunixin (Banamine).
While this drug is available over the counter, it should be given to a horse under veterinary guidance. This drug works by inhibiting phospholipase A2, an enzyme, that causes fever and inflammation. It also helps reduce the production of leukotrienes, which are chemicals associated with inflammatory responses in the body.
Flunixin also comes in formulations that can be injected directly into the bloodstream for faster results. There are few side effects associated with flunixin, but some horses may experience an allergic reaction or become agitated when it is administered.
This drug is a prescription-only painkiller and anti-inflammatory medication that treat injured horses.
There are formulations of this medication, for example, a paste, an injectable liquid, and a powder for oral administration. For pain relief, the paste is applied to the gums of a horse, where it is absorbed through their mucous membranes.
Is it appropriate to use any of these drugs on a racehorse before a big race?
We may never know! As mentioned earlier, races are not required to disclose which medications were used on the horses before they raced. There are strict rules about how much can be present in a horse’s system during a race, so if a horse is not given medication on the day of a race, it is unlikely that they would show any signs of pain or discomfort before or during a race.
However, if a horse has not been medicated and suffers from an injury during training, it may be hard to get them ready for a big race in just two weeks! If a horse comes up lame, it is often given painkillers and raced as long as the lameness does not interfere with its racing performance.
In general, bute should not be used on a racehorse before a race or a workout because it could put them in danger of getting injured again due to excessive bleeding.
So when you’re watching the horse races, don’t be surprised if you see a jockey leading their horse into the paddock with an unusual-looking paste on their gums!