You Oughta’ Know: Banamine

After the first foray into dispelling some myths about popular horse first aid essential Phenylbutazone, we have received some requests for the other most popular equine med: Banamine.

Banamine is the brand name of the generic drug flunixin meglumine, but Banamine was the only brand name of the medication available for quite some time, and so the name stuck.  Other brand names of flunixin are Flunixamine and Cronyxin.  For the purpose of this post, we will use  the the name Banamine to refer to all flunixin products.

Banamine is a non-sterodial anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) the same as phenylbutazone (Bute), but it has different properties and uses.

Banamine is most often used for the relief of muscle or joint disease and pain associated with colic.  It is a potent pain reliever  and also has antipyretic (fever reducing) properties.

The following are a few points we think “You Oughta’ Know” about Banamine.

1) Banamine has a fast onset.

Studies show that when given orally in a paste or powder form, Banamine starts producing effects within two hours with peak periods of relief between 12-16 hours.  The duration is generally 24-36 hours.

With IV injections, some studies report that the drug is active within 15 minutes. Banamine has been shown to provide relief from colic pain in 15-30 minutes, but may take days to be effective for musculoskeletal pain.

2) Banamine provides more potent pain relief than Bute.

Banamine is almost four times stronger than Bute on a mg to mg basis for pain relief, however your veterinarian should adjust for potency with the dosage size (higher dose of Bute will then equal a smaller dose of Banamine).  Banamine is far superior for relief of colic pain than Bute, although the reason is not known. Bute is more effective for the relief of musculoskeletal pain.

3) Again, Banamine is a prescription drug, available only through a veterinarian.

Although you may have leftover doses that you wish to give a colicky horse rolling around in pain – Don’t.  Always consult your veterinarian before administering even one dose to your horse.  Banamine may be very effective at reducing or eliminating your horse’s pain – but it is not fixing the problem – it is only masking symptoms.  You may see your horse stop all signs of colic, only to find them in critical condition – or dead- in the morning.  Your vet will be able to advise you whether it is acceptable to give your horse Banamine for the colic symptoms they are showing.

4) Adverse effects are possible.

There are adverse effects with the use of Banamine, but not as common as with Bute.  With all NSAIDS, including Bute and Banamine, there are risks of gastric and colonic ulcers developing, as the medications limit the actions of prostaglandins in the body, including healthy and much needed prostaglandins which protect the gut lining.

5) Banamine is given to pregnant mares, and significant amounts will not pass through to the milk of lactating mares.  Still – consult your veterinarian before giving pregnant or lactating mares any amount of Banamine.

6) Banamine is not toxic like Bute.

They are both intended to be used at low doses for a short amount of time for the most benefit and least adverse effects for your horse.  However, Banamine showed no toxicity in horses even when give at three times the recommended dosage for twice the recommended period of time.  Although no toxicity was observed, other side effects such as ulcers and kidney damage may be occuring.  The point is, that the dosage window for Banamine is slightly larger than the extremely small one for Bute.

7) The IM Injection.

This is the most hotly debated aspect of Banamine for horses. Yes, your vet may tell you that you can adminster Banamine to your horse through an intra-muscular (IM) injection.  For the majority of horses this is a viable option. However,  in some cases, IM injections of Banamine have lead to thousands of dollars in vet bills and fatalities. The reason is that the IM injection may be quite irritating to the skin tissue and cause reactions such as localized swelling, sweating and stiffness.

There are also spores of bacteria that lie dormant in healthy muscle called Clostridium. They can begin to multiply if the muscle is damaged (such as during an injection). NSAIDS are acidic and cause local tissue damage.  These Colstridial infections cause bacterial toxins which severely damage the muscle and perpetuate the spread of these anerobic (not requiring oxygen) bacteria. These infections are extremely severe, and require immediate emergency veterinary care. The areas of infection must be surgically opened up to let air circulate in, which means the cuts are sometimes through muscle and down to the bone.

Although this side effect is considered rare, it is a real possibility anytime you administer an IM injection of Banamine.  There are no such side effects when Banamine is given orally or as an IV injection.

~ We would like to thank Dr. Suzon Schaal and Dr. Trisha Dowling for their insight and the “vet proof” of this post.

You Oughta’ Know About: Bute

Just lately, I decided to educate myself on the subject of bute. You know what I’m referring to – that handy tube of paste, or container of powder, or liquid form which we frequently reach for when a horse in our care indicates it is in some form of pain, soreness or distress.

Phenylbutazone (Bute) is a NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) given for multiple reasons including swelling, soreness, musculosketetal pain and lameness including laminitis. If you have owned horses for even a short period of time, it is more than likely that you have either had to give a dose yourself, or known a horse who was prescribed bute. As common as this drug may be, it is easily misunderstood, and there are more than a few misconceptions surrounding it’s administration, effectiveness and general use.

As it turns out, I learned we as horse owners, need to be careful in the administration of bute. That it is not, in fact, the equine equivalent to Advil, which is a common misconception. So, without further ado, here are 11 points of information we all oughta’ know – about bute.

1) The three forms of bute: paste, granulars (powder), and injections.

Paste: This form of bute has been marketed as one of the easiest methods of administering the medication to your horse. Some studies note that paste is absorbed in horses faster than with powder formulas, however, other studies suggested that both methods led to approximately the same absorption. It is generally accepted that bute in paste form will reach minimum therapeutic levels (meaning the minimum amount to start decreasing inflammation) in about an hour.

What you may not realize is that the paste may not reach the maximum concentration – meaning the entire dosage absorbed in the body – for up to 18 hours. And, a factor which may delay the absorption of the med is the the feeding of hay.

The effects of bute in paste generally seem to last around 8-12 hours.

Granular: The powdered forms of bute were decidedly similar to those of paste in terms of absorption and effect, with some research suggesting granulars had a slightly slower absorption rate.

Injection: Bute injected intravenously is the sure-fire method of reaching maximum concentration in the fastest time – sometime between 1-3 hours, and will last as long as paste – between 8-12 hours. Remember, injections should be left to veterinarians or trained animal health technologists.

Bute in all its forms, provides the identical duration of pain relief – 8 to 12 hours.

2) Bute and ulcers – a high risk.

The risk of ulcers when medicating your horse with bute is very real, and dangerously common. While NSAIDs as a group are known to cause gastric and colonic ulcers, bute is more likely to cause ulcers than any other. This is because the drug inhibits prostaglandins, to reduce swelling and inflamation, but also a prostaglandin that plays a vital role in protecting the gut lining. Horses on vet-recommended doses of bute have been shown to develop ulcers in as little as five days. When given orally, bute can also cause ulcers in the mouth and esophagus.

Bottom line: if you are administering bute for any prolonged period of time, be sure you are aware of the symptoms of ulcers in horses, and have the direction of a veterinarian to counsel you. Often with extended treatment, bloodwork is recommended and giving the horse a break off bute for short periods of time is suggested.

3) A word about side effects.

Dr. Jordan Cook of Moore & Co. Vet Clinic has this to say about common dosing with bute.

“Using bute ‘here and there’ is all too common and comes with greater risks than people often realize. Overdosing occurs frequently, more is not better in this case and can have detrimental effects. Unfortunately the rate of occurrence of side effects (ulcers, colic, kidney problems) varies horse to horse. Some horses can tolerate (anecdotally) accidental administration of very high doses whereas others begin to show bloodwork changes and clinical signs after a few days on average doses.”

4) There is no bute on the market with an added ulcer preventative.

There are however, ulcer remedies, both herbal and pharmaceutical, which can be taken in conjunction with bute.

5) There are shipping regulations regarding horses and bute.

Bute is a banned substance for any equine intended for human consumption, therefore horses intended for slaughter, with a record of bute administration will be stopped at the Canadian/U.S. border.

6) Bute is not the horse equivalent of Advil (ibuprofen).

Technically both medications are NSAIDS, used for treating inflammation and pain caused by such swelling and inflammation. However, the side effects for bute are far more serious than for any Advil or Tylenol we would take ourselves. In one study, even 50% more than the maximum dose, when given to a horse, caused death within a week. The dosage window for bute is, in fact, very small. So while we might be of the mind frame that bute is equal to one or two Advils, we owners should really be under the advice of a veterinarian before administering it.

7) Humans should never ingest bute themselves, not even in an emergency.

You’re on a trail ride deep in the mountains. An accident occurs. And, it’s you, not your horse who needs the pain relief. Unfortunately, your emergency kit contains only bute. Can you consume the bute? NO, NO and NO. Listen up. Every resource consulted stated that humans must never ingest bute, as the side effects can be crazy-serious for us humanoids. It is know to be toxic to humans, cause bone marrow loss and anemia. Bute is also a known carcinogen, and so must be treated as such. Therefore, your inflammatory emergency is just going to have to wait until you can get back to your own medicine cabinet.

Photo by Kvetina-Marie

8) Bute and babies not a desirable combination.

Bute can pass through the placental lining and also into the milk of a mare, therefore some of your dosage is getting to the foal. Because their systems are not fully developed, foals will exhibit ulcers and kidney problems far more rapidly than full grown horses, and it is extremely easy for them to accumulate toxic amounts in their systems. Bute is also potentially toxic to developing embryos, so use caution with mares that have recently been bred, or are confirmed in foal.

9) Always consult your veterinarian before deciding to give your horse a left-over dosage of bute.

Everyone who has had a horse prescribed bute knows that there is usually a couple doses left over. It is tempting to just give an extra dose when one horse comes up lame, or exhibits swelling. However, resist the temptation to owner-medicate your horse, and call your vet before giving any horse even one dose of bute. Your vet can help you decide if indeed the horse could be helped by the medication, and also the dosage size.

10) Bute is not for every horse, or every situation.

Remember, that with any anti-inflammatory such as bute, you are treating the symptom and not the problem. Although signs of lameness and swelling may be reduced by bute, it does not mean that the root of the problem has been fixed. It is dangerous to give bute to horses that have suspected fractures, as they may further injure themselves once on pain relief. It is also not intended for treating infections. Lastly, the effects of bute can be especially problematic for horses with pre-existing conditions such as ulcers, kidney problems or bleeding conditions. If your horse is on other medications, bute may limit or displace the intended actions.

Check out more of what you Oaughta Know…

And finally, one more tidbit.

11) You cannot bake bute into horse treats.

Just in case you were thinking of it. . . heat will inactivate the medicinal ingredients of bute.

~ Thanks to Western Horse Review editorial intern Amie Peck for the research conducted for this post, and Dr. Jordan Cook of Moore & Co Large Animal Clinic, for the “vet-check.”

You Oughta’ Know About: Secretariat

He was born on a chilly spring morning on March 30th, 1970 at the Thoroughbred breeding farm, Meadow Stables, in Virginia. Owned by self-proclaimed housewife Penny Chenery, this magnificent bright red stallion would top out at 16.2 hands, 1,200 pounds, and become perhaps the greatest racehorse ever.

In the year of his 37th anniversary of winning the Triple Crown, and especially with the new Disney movie about him to be released this Thanksgiving weekend, editorial intern Amie Peck and I thought it would be fun to give you 11 facts you may not have known about this lightning bolt on four legs.

1.  Secretariat was the only horse in history to grace the cover of Time Magazine, as well as Newsweek and Sports Illustrated – all in one year!

2. Secretariat has an indelible Canadian connection. His final race was at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto on October 23, 1973, and it was held in tribute to his Canadian trainer, Lucien Laurin and his Canadian jockey, Ron Turcotte.

3.  He was the first Triple Crown Winner in a quarter of a century, winning the title in 1973. Previous winner was Citation in 1948.

4.  Secretariat set track records for each Triple Crown Race: the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes. He has also set two world records.

5.  Secretariat won the Belmont Stakes in a record breaking time of 2:24 at 1.5 miles – a record which still stands today, and many argue stands little chance of ever being broken.

When he crossed the finish line, he was an estimated 31 lengths (the length of one horse) ahead of his closest competitor.

Back on June 9th, the 37th anniversary of the running of this incredible race, I posted footage of the race on the Western Horse Review Facebook Page and a reader pointed out jockey Ron Turcotte looking back over his shoulder in the backstretch, because he could no longer hear any other horse behind him. If that doesn’t make your spine tingle. . . .

Secretariat winning the Belmont Stakes, by 31 lengths, in 1973.

6.  He was the first horse to have a publicity agent who brokered his appearance and endorsement contracts. “Big Red” was as hot as any movie star.

7.   He died of Cushings related laminitis at the young age of 19.

8.   Secretariat was named Horse of the Year at just two-years-old – before he ever attempted the Triple Crown run – a very rare honour.

ESPN also placed Secretariat in the 35th slot of their countdown of the top American athletes of the entire century, right between Lou Gehrig and Oscar Robertson.

Secretariat running the Kentucky Derby

9.  The ownership of Secretariat was determined by a coin toss. There was an agreement between Meadow Stable and Claiborne Farm that each year a coin would be flipped to determine who would own the newborn foals. The year Secretariat was born, Meadow Stable won the coin toss. Pretty good luck, eh?

10.   Unlike the Grinch, whose heart was two sizes too small, during the autoposy of Secretariat’s body, it was found that his heart weighed 22 pounds; the average horse heart is eight pounds. This was partly attributed to his tremendous racing ability, and proved what everyone had always known about him – he had incredible drive and heart.

11.   As part of a deal to help the financially ailing Meadow Stable, Secretariat was sold to a breeding syndicate for a then-record price of $6.08 million. Although he sired some champions, his own incredible athleticism was never equalled in an offspring.

Lastly, we leave you with the trailer view of Secretariat, starring Diane Lane, John Malkovich and Margo Martindale. In the movie, Secretariat is played by four horses – three Thoroughbreds and one Quarter Horse. Apparently, on set, a make-up crew spent the better part of most mornings painting matching socks and the original’s distinctive white stripe on each of the four horses.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!