bute: Phenylbutazone. A non-steroid, anti-inflammatory drug and painkiller usually administered in oral form to horses. Although legally restricted to veterinary prescription, this drug is widely available and often improperly used to mask lameness which could be corrected at the source through appropriate farriery.
Bute has been around in the horse world for a very long time. Despite being a prescription drug, almost everyone has a jar or few tubes of the stuff handy.
Sometimes I'm convinced the introduction of bute was one of the worst things to happen to horse care in America... No need to deal with the actual cause of pain when you can just give the critter a bit of the wonder drug and make everything all better...
Except that it doesn't.
Pain is Nature's way of telling Dobbin something is messed-up, and he shouldn't go stomping-around until it's better. This is especially true in laminitis, where the mechanical stress of walking around can rip the compromised laminae and cause the progression into outright founder...
It's hard to see our animals in-pain... But that's what makes them lay down and keep still, which is just exactly what they need to do until the initial laminitis attack runs its course.
Not only is masking the pain a bad idea, but bute itself may make the laminitis worse. Laminitis isn't just a foot thing. It's systemic. And bute stresses a number of organs, and may enhance the autointoxication aspect of the laminitis attack.
Then there are abscesses. Encapsulated infections that sometimes cause intense pain until they are drained or rupture... But using an anti-inflammatory like bute tends to slow the infection coming to a "head" and prolong the agony. Bute can turn what would have been a rough couple of days into a chronic problem.
Navicular and other arthritic/bursitis problems are one place where bute can be a help or a detriment depending on how its used. Giving a sore horse bute to keep him going as he is will facilitate further damage... But, once all mechanical adjustments possible have been made to prevent further injury, bute can be used to enable the horse to engage in restorative exercise. (Especially useful if lack of mild daily activity was a causative factor in the lameness to begin with.)
It's a bit troubling to me how many horseowners think bute is some sort of first aid... Bute does not fix anything! It's like giving a kid with a broken leg some whiskey and telling him to "walk it off".
Worse yet are vets who prescribe it so freely... I suppose you can't blame 'em. Horse is in pain or limping, and the client wants Doc to DO SOMETHING. But temporarily feeling better isn't always conducive to actually getting better.
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