Altered Drugs

The risk of compounded drugs to horses.

Every horse owner has the right to know the safety and efficacy of medications a veterinarian prescribes for their horse. But even the most experienced horse owners might not be aware of the health risks involved with using compounded drugs. Compounded drugs are unregulated drugs produced by altering or combining other drugs to serve a patient's particular need.

Recently, compounded drugs have been linked to tragic incidents in the horse industry, including the sudden death of 21 polo ponies in April and the deaths of several horses in Louisiana in 2006. Because compounded drugs are not regulated, other incidents remain unreported.

The AAEP, an AQHA alliance partner, acknowledges that reputable pharmacies produce legitimate compounded drugs to improve the health of horses when an FDA-approved option doesn't exist. However, when inappropriately compounded and used, these drugs may pose a serious threat to the health of your horse. Knowing the facts about legitimate and illegitimate compounded drugs will help you and your veterinarian decide on the best treatment option for your horse.

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What is a compounded medication?

Compounding is a process to produce a medication by combining or altering ingredients for the special needs of an equine patient. Only a licensed veterinarian may write a prescription for the compounded medication. Because there is a scarcity of approved medications for use in horses, there is a legitimate need for compounding in equine veterinary medicine. Some examples of legitimate compounding would include crushing a tablet and creating a paste or gel to aid in the administration to the patient or mixing two anesthetics in the same syringe for use in your horse.

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Weigh the risks of unregulated medication.

Compounded drugs are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and can vary in potency, stability, purity and effectiveness. And because these products are unregulated by the government, compounded drugs have the potential to pose serious safety risks to horses.

Compounded drugs are not generic drugs.

Because compounded drugs are generally cheaper than FDA-approved medications, horse owners often confuse compounded drugs with generic drugs. Generic drugs are biologically equivalent to a brand-name drug. Unlike compounded drugs, generic drugs go through an FDA approval process and are manufactured in an FDA-approved facility.

Don't skimp on quality medication.

A compounded drug should never be requested, used or prescribed as a cost-saving measure. Putting your horse's health at risk with a knockoff drug could end up costing you your horse's life. Stay on the safe side and request FDA-approved medications

In the interest of the welfare of your horse, AAEP  advises the use of legal, FDA-approved medications when such a drug exists. FDA-approved medications undergo years of testing and are closely monitored by the government to ensure a consistent, safe performance.

It's important for horse owners to communicate openly with their veterinarians about the use of compounded drugs. Though your vet should always notify you when a compounded drug is being prescribed, be sure to request FDA-approved treatment options for your horse. If your veterinarian recommends a compounded drug, ask why the compounded drug recommended is the best treatment option for your horse. Understanding the potential risks and benefits of your horse's medication is part of your role as a responsible horse owner.

Tips for Horse Owners:

    • Communicate openly with your veterinarian about his or her practice's use of compounded drugs.
    • Request FDA-approved medication.
    • When a compounded drug is recommended, ask your veterinarian to explain why it's the best treatment option.
    • Don't skimp on cost: Compounded drugs should never be selected to save money.
    • Make sure your prescription is clearly marked and labeled.
    • Don't confuse generic drugs with compounded drugs.

The risks of compounded drugs can be serious, but they're not the only risks to your horse's health. Learn more about a common health problem in today's horses in the FREE Chubby Horses report.

Gastric Ulcers in Horses

By Dr. April Knudson of Merial


I show my horse at local shows a few times a year. Do I still have to worry about stomach ulcers?


Absolutely. Although you might not haul your horse to a competition every weekend, he might still be at risk for equine stomach ulcers. A horse's stomach can produce up to 16 gallons of acid each day. Natural grazing and hay in the stomach help create a buffer for the stomach acid. However, limited grazing opportunities, coupled with the stress of trailering or traveling, means acid can build up in the horse's stomach and lead to stomach ulcers.
Stomach ulcers can develop in as little as five days. Plus, stomach ulcers are not limited to certain horses and can be common across a wide variety of breeds and disciplines.

While management changes like eliminating concentrated feeds and offering smaller, more frequent hay meals can help control stomach ulcers, the best way to keep your horse working and competing at its best is to prevent ulcers before they become a problem -- especially before the shows or events you wait for all year.

To find out about diagnosing, treating or controlling ulcers in your horse, contact your veterinarian.