At the National Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association’s recently concluded Winter Convention in Clearwater Beach, Florida, a panel of expert veterinarians addressed the questions of calcium loss in horses as a result of the use of the anti-bleeding medication Lasix/Salix (furosemide), and the effectiveness of Lasix in treating EIPH (exercise induced pulmonary hemorrhage). The panel concluded that administration of Lasix has no adverse effects on horses and without doubt is effective in treating pulmonary bleeding.
Dr. Lawrence R. Bramlage, noted surgeon with Kentucky’s Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital, started the discussion with a presentation on bone development and strength in racehorses. Based on his experience and scientific studies, Dr. Bramlage said Lasix does not affect bone strength nor does it cause circulatory dehydration at usual pre-race doses; Bramlage said he favors Lasix use because of its effectiveness in lessening pulmonary bleeding during a race, though he is mindful of the political questions it creates.
Dr. Thomas Tobin, director of the University of Kentucky Graduate Center for Toxicology, followed with a toxicologist’s perspective. He concluded that Lasix was not likely to have any adverse effect because a single pre-race dose rapidly clears a horse’s system and its pharmacologic impact ends within an hour of administration. Tobin also stressed that unlike many other medications, Lasix is not metabolized by a horse.
Dr. Pamela Wilkins, a specialist in equine internal medicine who teaches at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana, added that studies have shown that there is no significant calcium loss in a horse’s system because of Lasix use.
Dr. Thomas Brokken, a racetrack veterinarian in Florida and past president of the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP), rounded out the presentation by reporting in 43 years he has not seen any significant adverse effects other than an occasional allergic reaction to Lasix. For Dr. Brokken, the only serious problem with Lasix is the paperwork that goes with its use.
The panel also discussed whether Lasix improved a horse’s performance beyond that resulting from stemming internal bleeding. Dr. Bramlage said he thought it does because a horse loses approximately twenty pounds of fluid from the colon due to urination before a race. But when used in nearly all horses the effect would be similar in all participants and would produce a level playing field.
Following the panel’s presentation, the Board of Directors of the National Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association, the country’s largest organization of Thoroughbred owners and trainers, voted unanimously to continue the race day use of Lasix (furosemide), including at this year’s Breeders’ Cup World Championship races at Santa Anita. Convention delegates from among the HBPA’s 30 state affiliates met for the past three days in Florida.
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