Why Use an NSAID?

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Contact your veterinarian before administering non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

It can happen to anyone – your horse is lame. Lameness can be very subtle, or can be more obvious, but in each case, it's important to determine when and if an NSAID is an appropriate treatment option, and if so, which NSAID to choose.

NSAIDs are some of the most common medications given to horses. They are frequently prescribed for the treatment of pain and inflammation associated with equine osteoarthritis (OA), one of the most common causes of lameness in horses. Equine veterinarians have a number of options when choosing an NSAID and will prescribe the best option for each individual horse. Owners and trainers need to remember NSAIDs are only available with a veterinarian’s prescription.

“NSAIDs are an important part of joint health management,” says Britt Conklin, DVM, Senior Equine Professional Services Veterinarian, Boehringer Ingelheim. “But they have to be used appropriately. Giving an NSAID and putting your horse on stall rest may or may not be the best course of treatment. Additionally, giving an NSAID prior to a veterinarian’s diagnosis could mask the ailment, causing more problems in the long run.”


After an examination, your veterinarian will determine the diagnosis. It might be OA, also known as degenerative joint disease (DJD), caused by progressive wear and tear of cartilage and other parts of the joint.

Signs of OA include:

  • Joint swelling
  • Limping or lameness
  • Decreased activity during turnout
  • Stiffness or decreased range of motion


“When left untreated, OA creates a vicious cycle where chronic pain may lead to immobility, worsening joint deterioration and more pain,” Conklin says. “Contact your veterinarian at the first sign of any potential side effect.”

When treating pain and inflammation associated with OA, veterinarians may consider Equioxx (firocoxib), by Merial, the first and only FDA-approved coxib class NSAID for horses. The active ingredient in EQUIOXX inhibits the inflammation-producing enzyme (Cyclooxygenase-2) which is associated with inflammatory processes, while sparing the enzyme (Cyclooxygenase-1) that safeguards a number of normal body functions, including stomach protection.*

Another pain management option veterinarians may consider is Surpass(1% diclofenac sodium), a unique topical NSAID that provides pain relief directly at the site of inflammation. SURPASS is the only FDA-approved topical application for horses for the control of pain and inflammation associated with OA in the hock, knee, fetlock and pastern joints in horses.

Conklin urges horse owners not to take joint health treatment into their own hands. Veterinarians will take into account the ailment, age of the horse, activity level of the horse and the route of administration. “Talk to your veterinarian about appropriate NSAID options for your horse,” he says.

*Clinical relevance has not been determined.

EQUIOXX IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION: EQUIOXX Tablets and paste are for oral use in horses only. EQUIOXX injection is for intravenous use in horses only. EQUIOXX has not been tested in horses less than 1 year of age or in breeding horses, pregnant or lactating mares. Use with other NSAIDs, corticosteroids or nephrotoxic medications should be avoided. For additional information, please refer to the prescribing information or visit www.equioxx.com.

SURPASS IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION: For topical use in horses only. Wear gloves to prevent absorption into the hands. Direct contact with the skin should be avoided. Treatment with SURPASS cream should be terminated if signs such as inappetence, colic, fecal abnormalities, anemia or depression are observed. The safety of SURPASS cream has not been investigated in breeding, pregnant or lactating horses, or in horses under one year of age. For additional information, please refer to the prescribing information or visit http://www.bi-vetmedica.com/species/equine/products/joint_health_portfolio/surpass.html.


About Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health Business Unit
Boehringer Ingelheim is the second largest animal health business in the world. We are committed to creating animal wellbeing through our large portfolio of advanced, preventive healthcare products and services. With net sales of 3.9 billion euros and around 10,000 employees worldwide, we are present in more than 150 markets. For more information, visit here: https://www.boehringer-ingelheim.com/animal-health/overview.

About Boehringer Ingelheim
Boehringer Ingelheim is one of the world’s top 20 pharmaceutical companies. Headquartered in Ingelheim, Germany, the company operates globally with approximately 50,000 employees. Since its founding in 1885, the company has remained family-owned and today creates value through innovation in three business areas including human pharmaceuticals, animal health and biopharmaceutical contract manufacturing. Boehringer Ingelheim is committed to improving lives and providing valuable services and support to patients and their families. In 2017, Boehringer Ingelheim achieved net sales of about $20.4 billion (18.1 billion euros). R&D expenditure corresponds to approximately $3.4 billion (three billion euros), or 17.0 percent of its net sales.

More information about Boehringer Ingelheim can be found on www.boehringer-ingelheim.com or in the company’s annual report at http://annualreport.boehringer-ingelheim.com.


Merial is now part of Boehringer Ingelheim.
®EQUIOXX is a registered trademark of Merial. ®SURPASS is a registered trademark of Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc. ©2019 Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health USA Inc. All rights reserved. EQU-0716-JH0718.

Shlueter AE, Orth MW. Equine osteoarthritis: a brief review of the disease and its causes. Equine Comp Exerc Physiol. 2004;1(4):221-231.
United States Equestrian Federation. NSAIDs and Your Horse. Available at https://www.usef.org/forms-pubs/_v3VUMAboEE/nsaids-your-horse. Accessed Aug. 6, 2018.
Carmona JU, Prades M. Pathophysiology of osteoarthritis. Compendium Equine. 2009;4:28-40.
Thill, D. Looking for Symptoms. Veterinary Advantage. July 2017. Accessed Oct. 18, 2018. Available at https://blog.vet-advantage.com/equine/looking-for-symptoms

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