NSAIDs - Are You Following the Rules?

Make sure you know the horse-showing rules regarding nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

From AQHA Corporate Partner Merial

As equestrians, we expect a lot from our performance horses. Sometimes pain and inflammation of their joints can happen right before a show or competition. Before administering a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, it’s important to know the rules specific to your particular association or show.

NSAIDs are typically used to treat conditions such as the pain and inflammation associated with equine osteoarthritis.1 Most shows follow the United States Equestrian Federation Equine Drugs and Medications Rule, which outlines specifics in regard to NSAIDs. There are seven Food and Drug Administration-approved NSAIDs approved for use by the USEF, as well as the American Quarter Horse Association: diclofenac liposomal cream, firocoxib, phenylbutazone, flunixin meglumine, ketoprofen, meclofenamic acid and naproxen.2,3

Here are some basics to know before treating your horse with an NSAID prior to competition:

    • NSAIDs are to be administered to a horse or pony only for a therapeutic purpose.2
    • There are specific administration guidelines for each NSAID that must be followed, 2 which can be found on the USEF website.
    • Only one NSAID (of those permitted to be used) may be used at a time.2

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    • Whenever a permitted NSAID is administered, any additional permitted NSAID should not have been administered during the three days prior to competing.2
    • NSAIDs that don’t appear on the permitted list must not be administered during the seven days prior to competing.2
    • The dose should be accurately calculated according to the actual weight of the animal.2
    • The latest an NSAID can be given is 12 hours prior to competition.2

Many competitors choose EQUIOXX® (firocoxib) because it provides 24 hours of prescription equine osteoarthritis pain relief* in just one daily dose.4 There are two formulations available: injection and paste. The overall duration of treatment with EQUIOXX Injection and EQUIOXX Oral Paste will be dependent on the response observed, but should not exceed 14 days.2 Other oral NSAIDs are approved for only five consecutive days.2

In addition to giving the correct remedy, it’s important to give the correct dose. Dr. Hoyt Cheramie, manager, Merial Large Animal Veterinary Services, says there are potential dangers when administering an NSAID.

“Most NSAIDs are administered with a notched syringe, with one dose being just a small portion of the entire tube,” Dr. Cheramie says. “It is not unheard of for a horse owner to unknowingly give an overdose of an NSAID, which can lead to health complications such as gastric ulcers, diarrhea, anorexia and renal dysfunction.”5

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Dr. Cheramie also recommends using a product that can be administered just once a day versus multiple times so owners don’t have to worry about inadvertently exposing their horse to peaks and valleys in relief.6

“When a horse needs relief from discomfort at home or at a show, owners should partner with their veterinarians to determine the best treatment option and be diligent about following dosing directions,” Dr. Cheramie says. He notes that when it comes to giving medications, horse owners, trainers and veterinarians should read the rules specific to each association or show, ensuring that they are in compliance.

*Joint pain and inflammation associated with equine osteoarthritis, also called degenerative joint disease.

As with any prescription medication, prior to use, a veterinarian should perform a physical examination and review the horse’s medical history. A veterinarian should advise horse owners to observe for signs of potential drug toxicity. As a class, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may be associated with gastrointestinal, hepatic and renal toxicity. Use with other NSAIDs, corticosteroids or nephrotoxic medication should be avoided. EQUIOXX has not been tested in horses less than 1 year of age or in breeding horses, or pregnant or lactating mares. For additional information, please refer to the prescribing information or visit
®EQUIOXX is a registered trademark of Merial. ©2015 Merial, Inc., Duluth, GA. All rights reserved. EQUILGN1565 (07/15)
1 United States Equestrian Federation. NSAIDs and Your Horse. Available at: Accessed July 16, 2015.
2 United States Equestrian Federation. Drugs and Medications Guidelines. 2014:2?3. Available at: Accessed July 16, 2015.
3 AQHA Official Handbook of Rules and Regulation. 2015:22: VIO405.7. Available at: Accessed July 16, 2015.
4 EQUIOXX product label.
5 Reed SK, Messer NT, Tesman RK, Keegan KG. Effects of phenylbutazone alone or in combination with flunixin meglumine on blood protein concentrations in horses. Am J Vet Res. 2006;67(3)398-402.
6 The United States Pharmacopeial convention. Phenylbutazone. 2004. Available at: Accessed July 16, 2015.