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Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID)
Horses and dogs
May Be Prescribed by Vets for:
Pain relief particularly for musculoskeletal pain, osteoarthritis, anti-inflammatory, antipyretic.
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Phenylbutazone is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) and cyclooxygenase inhibitor. It is a potent pain reliever, antipyretic, and anti-inflammatory. In the horse, it is used commonly for lameness, resulting from soft-tissue injury, muscle soreness, bone and joint problems, and laminitis. NSAIDs work by inhibiting the body's production of prostaglandins, thromboxane, and other inflammatory mediators. Some of these actions may be dose-dependent. Phenylbutazone may be given intravenously or orally; pain relief and fever reduction usually starts within one to two hours.
Phenylbutazone is used occasionally in dogs for the longe-term management of chronic pain particularly due to osteoarthritis. About 20% of adult dogs are affected with osteoarthritis, which makes managing musculoskeletal pain a major component of companion-animal practice. There is a very narrow margin of safety for all NSAIDs in the dog and there are other NSAIDs that are used more commonly (etodolac and carprofen).
GI-protectant drugs such as Misoprostol, cimetidine, omeprazole, ranitidine, or sucralfate frequently are included as a part of treatment with any NSAID. Dogs receiving chronic phenylbutazone therapy should be followed with regular blood work and renal monitoring.
Phenylbutazone is an inexpensive, generally well-tolerated drug. It frequently is the first choice for pain control of many musculoskeletal problems although other NSAIDs, such as flunixin, are used more commonly for gastrointestinal pain or colic. Recent research into NSAID toxicity and equine gastric ulcer disease may have given phenylbutazone a bad reputation for safety. However, when used at the appropriate dose and according to directions, phenylbutazone generally is a safe and effective drug. Additional care should be shown with special populations such as foals, ponies, older horses, and debilitated or dehydrated horses. These populations are more likely to have adverse side-effects.
Overdoses of phenylbutazone can cause renal failure, liver injury, bone marrow suppression, and gastric ulceration/perforation. Early signs of toxicity include loss of appetite and depression.
Dr. Barbara Forney is a veterinary practitioner in Chester County, Pennsylvania. She has a master's degree in animal science from the University of Delaware and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in 1982.
She began to develop her interest in client education and medical writing in 1997. Recent publications include portions of The Pill Book Guide to Medication for Your Dog and Cat, and most recently Understanding Equine Medications published by the Bloodhorse.
Dr. Forney is an FEI veterinarian and an active member of the AAEP, AVMA, and AMWA.
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