Pain Medication in Horses

September 19, 2005 (published) | December 3, 2012 (revised)

Pain medications are probably the most commonly used medications in equine practice and today on Texas Vet News I am going to discuss some new research on two commonly used medications.  Phenylbutazone, commonly called bute, is the number one pain medication used in horses and it is classified as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication.  Bute is used routinely in equine practice, especially for musculoskeletal conditions such as lameness and laminitis.  However, there can be side effects with bute and other similar drugs that are related to the gastrointestinal system and the kidneys so it is important to only use these drugs as prescribed by your veterinarian. 

A recent study looked at the doses of bute to determine the most effective dose and it was determined half of a dose only lasted a short period as would be expected.  A full dose of bute was effective for pain control but a double dose was no more effective than the regular dose, so if your horse is hurting, it will not help to increase the dose over the recommended amount.  However, increasing the dose is much more toxic to the horse. 

Another idea some folks have believed is that by stacking anti-inflammatories or using two different drugs together, you would get improved pain control versus using only one drug at a time.  To test this hypothesis, a study was performed by using bute and banamine together on lame horses.  Both drugs were used at normal doses and pain control lasted for up to 12 hours.  However, using bute and banamine together was no more effective for pain control than using either drug separately.  Both of these studies indicate it is important to use the correct dose of anti-inflammatories as prescribed by your veterinarian.

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