Categories: Horses

Beware of bute!

The painkiller horse owners like so much is really quite toxic, warns Dr Mac.

Phenylbutazone, commonly known as ‘bute’, is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory painkiller commonly used on horses. It comes in the form of small packets of white powder or as an injectable liquid. Several years ago, a jockey died after taking some bute. He knew it helped lame horses and wanted to counter the pain of a bad fall so he could ride in a race.

Bute can also have severe side-effects in animals. The EU doesn’t permit its use in animals intended for human consumption, because bute can cause fluid retention, skin rashes, allergies, gastric ulcers, hepatitis, genetic defects, bone marrow suppression and possibly leukaemia and bladder cancer in human beings.

Zero tolerance
There’s also zero tolerance for bute residue in meat in the US. These have been detected in cattle 55 days after administration and, although the international withdrawal time for competition horses is 12 hours before a show, residues in horsemeat are probably more or less the same as for beef. It’s unknown how many horses are slaughtered for human consumption in South Africa, due to the high levels of informal and illegal slaughter.

The EU classifies horses as either ‘equine athletes’ or ‘slaughter animals’. By law, horses classified as ‘athletes’ may not enter the food chain at any level and only they are allowed to be treated with bute. All equine athletes must have a ‘passport’ from the age of six months and this system is slowly being introduced in South Africa, although at this stage it’s only being strictly implemented in racing Thoroughbreds.

Precautions
In the EU, any vet using bute in a horse without a passport can be prosecuted. Furthermore, research has shown that bute given at the standard dose can cause gastric and colon ulcers, colic, diarrhoea and kidney damage in horses. It’s also shown that increasing the dose doesn’t improve the level of pain relief in a lame horse, but it does increase the chance of toxicity. So it’s wiser to feed a lower dose for a shorter period.

Two packets of bute given twice a day are suggested for a 450kg horse, but most horses in South Africa weigh less than 400kg. Horse owners should be aware of the side-effects and, in particular, make sure that any horse receiving bute has free access to water to prevent kidney damage. Horses receiving bute must also be carefully monitored for signs of gastric ulceration.

Ultimately, horse owners should not use bute except under the direct supervision of a vet and the dose should be calculated carefully according to the weight of the horse.

Contact Dr Mac at farmersweekly@caxton.co.za . Please state ‘Horse talk’ in the subject line of your email.

Share
Published by
Caxton Magazines
Tags: butecancerdr machorseshumaninjectionliquidpainkillerphenylbutazonesouth africatoxic

Recent Posts

How to implement a succession plan

The importance of a succession plan for a farming business cannot be underestimated, and must be prioritised.

21 hours ago

Hemp production could soon be legal

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) has formally requested the Department of Health and the Department of Justice…

21 hours ago

Small Simmentaler stud takes on the country’s best

The size of an operation counts less than dedication, persistence, insight and quality genetics. Operating on a modestly-sized parcel of…

2 days ago

‘Diesel now second highest input cost’ – Grain SA

The Automobile Association of South Africa is forecasting record increase in fuel prices for October, including a possible R1,38/litre increase…

2 days ago

When losses are not deductible

Stock in trade is the lifeblood of a business. When stock is lost, or destroyed, the loss normally gives rise…

3 days ago

Enjoy the taste of fresh garden peas!

These days, most people opt for frozen peas for convenience. They don’t know what they’re missing, says Bill Kerr. Fresh…

4 days ago

This website uses cookies.