Studies show that NSAIDS (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as bute, aspirin or ibuprofen) can have very undesirable side-effects. Bute has been implicated in stomach ulcers, kidney damage, bone marrow depression, loss of appetite, and changes in blood chemistry.
And there's more. A report by Dr. L. Van Hoogmoed (University of California at Davis) finds that bute can depress motility in the large bowel (which could lead to a tendency for impactions.) Bute can depress bone healing (Dr. C. Rhode, Ohio State), and depress both total T4 and free T4 thyroid hormone levels (Dr. S. Ramirez, Louisiana State).
Researchers at Ohio State University found a link between synovial fluid and bute. Given for more than two weeks, bute breaks down joint fluid and suppresses the production of cartilage. Yes, there ARE times when you will absolutely have to use bute . But be aware of its potentially damaging side-effects, and try to use it only for the short-term.
What are the herbal alternatives? And do they work?
Best known - and possibly the most effective is Devil's Claw. This South African plant has been an important part of veterinary health care in Europe for over 30 years. Scientific studies in Germany and France have found Devil's Claw to be as effective as bute for relieving pain without the damaging effects on the digestive tract and the kidneys found with NSAIDS. Two other anti-inflammatory, analgesic herbs are Meadowsweet and Willow Bark, which both yield salicylic acid, the precursor to aspirin.
Devil's Claw is a "regulated substance" and can not be used at AHSA/USA EQUESTRIAN shows.
NEVER FEED DEVIL'S CLAW TO PREGNANT MARES.
A possible cause of uterine contractions in late pregnancy.
When you absolutely have to use bute...
For acute conditions, or for sudden flare-ups of old conditions, bute can be a highly effective anti-inflammatory, analgesic and fever fighter. If the time comes when your vet feels that a short course of bute is right for your horse, how do you guard against damaging side effects?
- Use bute only when absolutely necessary and only for as long as absolutely needed. In most cases, three doses of bute should be adequate to get control of pain, heat and inflammation.
- After the third dose, if severe signs still persist, consult your veterinarian about any infection or underlying condition which might be present.
- Avoid long-term use of bute. Use other methods such as cold-hosing, homeopathic remedies, joint neutraceuticals, and herbal supplements.
- Consider using MSM to buffer some of bute's undesirable side effects. Research in lab animals has shown that high doses of MSM can protect against ulcers induced by NSAIDS such as bute. This hasn't been tested in horses: however, it could be worth trying. Give 30 to 40 grams of MSM 30 minutes before each dose of bute.