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Controlling Fever in Horses

Fever Control Options

Veterinarians use non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for fever control, and they have several options to choose from. Dipyrone (marketed as Zimeta), for instance, is the only FDA-approved drug labeled for use in controlling pyrexia in horses. Several other common NSAIDs—phenylbutazone (bute), flunixin meglumine (Banamine), firocoxib (Equioxx), and ketoprofen (Ketofen)—are labeled for the control of inflammation and pain associated with musculoskeletal issues (and, in flunixin’s case, to alleviate visceral pain associated with colic) and are also effective in controlling fever.

Of course, each case is unique, so veterinarians must evaluate all factors before deciding which medication to use in a particular instance. They must consider, for example, how each drug behaves in the horse’s body.

“Many of the NSAIDs labeled for horses do not reach high concentrations in the central nervous system (CNS) because they are highly bound to plasma proteins and, therefore, remain in circulation,” Davis says. “Dipyrone and its metabolites reach higher concentrations in the CNS and can therefore act directly on that portion of the brain that causes the fever.”

Vets might also use different approaches if they’re treating a sport or show horse and must contend with medication regulations. Take a mild case of shipping fever, for instance. Considering Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) drug rules.


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