Anti-Inflamatory Drugs

AQHA Corporate Partner Merial explains the risks and benefits of treating your horse with NSAIDs.


How long does my horse’s NSAID relieve pain and inflammation?


While there are a variety of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) available, it is

important to remember that each NSAID will help to control joint pain and inflammation for a different amount of time — most supply less than a day’s worth of relief at a therapeutic level.

That’s why it is critical to administer most NSAIDs multiple times a day to receive effective and constant pain control.1,2,3 Missing or mis-timing a dose could cause a rollercoaster of pain and pain relief for your horse.1,2,3

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Additionally, NSAIDs like phenylbutazone must be carefully monitored when given to horses.4 Studies have shown that just 7 or 15 grams of phenylbutazone per day — doses just four times higher than recommended daily levels — have been shown to cause death.5

Traditional NSAIDs, like phenylbutazone and flunixin, can be used for no more than five consecutive days in AQHA and USEF competition.6,7 Plus, it’s even more critical to receive a consistent therapeutic level while training or preparing for events to help ensure horses aren’t exposed to potential pain and inflammation during heavier workloads.

Every horse owner wants their horse to feel — and perform — well. While NSAIDs can help to manage horses’ pain, it’s important to weigh the risks and benefits while carefully managing the amount and timing of NSAID doses.

Dr. Cheramie specializes in equine surgery and performance horse medicine and has a special interest in colic and performance limiting problems, including gastric ulceration and lameness. He holds a doctorate of veterinary medicine from Louisiana State University and is a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons.

    1. Tobin T, Chay S, Kamerling S, Woods WE, Weckman TJ, Blake JW, Lees P. Phenylbutazone in the horse: A review. J Vet Pharmacol Ther 1986;(1):1-25.
    1. The United States Pharmacopeial Convention. Phenylbutazone. 2004.
    1. The United States Pharmacopeial Convention. Flunixin. 2007.
    1. McConnico RS, Morgan TW, Williams CC, Hubert JD, Moore RM. Pathophysiologic effects of phenylbutazone on the right dorsal colon in horses. AJVR 2008;69(11):1496-1505.
    1. MacKay RJ, French TW, Nguyen HT, Mayhew IG. Effects of large doses of phenylbutazone administration to horses. Am J Vet Res 1983;44(5):774-780.
    1. American Quarter Horse Association. Show rules and regulations. Official Handbook of Rules and Regulations. 2008:128.
    1. United States Equestrian Federation. Drugs and Medications Guidelines. 2007:2-3.