NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) may help mask lameness while reducing pain, heat, swelling, and inflammation, but they can also be very harmful to the equine, whether pet or athlete.
NSAIDs can contribute to stomach and intestinal ulcers, diarrhea from colitis and colic, all of which may trigger bouts of laminitis and founder. Even short term NSAID use has the potential for renal (kidney) and liver toxicity, and may decrease a horse's health and performance. One study showed that just three days on NSAID administration is enough to start a gastric ulcer in some horses. Some NSAIDs can effect a change in circulating levels of other drugs that are given at the same time due to protein binding and competition.
Research in human medicine has shown that NSAIDs may also slow down the healing process of soft tissues. This means that the patient using NSAIDs may look normal (no evidence of swelling or redness) and not have pain evident, but the tissue is weaker longer and at a higher risk for re-injury during the extended healing period.
The USEF (United States Equestrian Federation) now requires an "NSAID Disclosure form" to be filed with the Steward/Technical Delegate if more than one NSAID is used during a competition or in the five days preceding a USEF competition. The use of Bute and Banamine together has been and still is currently prohibited. Starting December 1, 2011, the presence of only one NSAID will be allowed! The seven NSAIDs currently allowed with quantitative restrictions are Bute, Banamine, Naproxen, Ketofen, Arquel, Equioxx, and topical Surpass.
There are other options available to use for the treatment of inflammation and pain. Many of the natural products are very effective while being much safer than prescription NSAIDs. Some of these may be herbal, botanical, nutritional, and/or homeopathic blends. Keep in mind not all "natural" products are safe or effective and have potential herb-drug interaction. Also, some natural products will test positive on drug screens. In some cases, the addition of a natural product to a treatment protocol using NSAIDs will improve the treatment results. Often the dosage level of a NSAID may be reduced while maintaining an effective treatment result by using it in combination.
KAM Animal Services offers FRE Choice Liquid as a safe effective NSAID alternative. FRE Liquid has been used in show and race horses for years with great success and is veterinarian tested and endorsed. It will not test positive on a drug screen (blood or urine). It is safe to use in combination with any and all other NSAIDs and any medications your horse may be receiving.