Banamine (generic name Flunixin Meglumide) became a veterinary drug about 30 years ago. Since then, just in our practice alone, many thousands of doses have been administered or dispensed. What’s that all about? Banamine has become an important part of almost every equine vet’s inventory, and while the term “wonder drug” may be a little strong, it is one of a handful of medications that I’d hate to be without. Banamineis in the NSAID (Non Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs) class of drugs. That means that it isn’t a corticosteroid like cortisone, prednisone or dexamethasone. Instead it is part of the family of medicines that include aspirin or Bute (pheynlbutazone). One research study showed it to be some four times stronger than Bute.
The word anti-inflammatory means that, when given in proper dosage, aches and pains are remarkably lessened. Because movement of our horses is so important, we as owners and trainers are always interested in medicines or procedures that promise to relieve discomfort. However, you can only fool Mother Nature for so long. Give too much Banamine and side effects such as stomach or large colon ulcers may result. Advice from your veterinarian as to when to use it, its dosage, and how long to administer it, is critical.
Although it is used routinely for acutely lame horses its most frequent application for us is in the treatment of colic. The word colic means belly pain. The origin of the pain is usually from stomach or intestinal problems of some sort, and can range from simple gas to a twisted or trapped intestine.
In our practice our recommendations are as follows. First, we like all of our clients to have a supply of Banamine on hand. It comes in a paste syringe with 3 doses for a 1000 pound horse. If a client calls with a horse showing belly pain, we try to get some information over the phone. We are interested in the degree of pain, the heart rate, color of the mucus membranes around the eye and in the mouth, and the intensity and location of gut sounds.
If the pain level is bearable, we usually advise giving several GasX and then waiting an hour. Often the pain is due to gas distending the intestine, and shortly the horse is fine. If GasX and waiting an hour brings no relief, we advise giving a dose of Banamine paste. More often than not this quickly takes care of the pain. However, if a horse has a mechanical blockage from a twisted or entrapped intestine the Banamine will relieve only some of the pain, and that relief is short lived. The horse soon starts to hurt again. These horses need veterinary attention with a full physical exam. This usually includes a rectal exam and passage of a stomach tube to determine what the problem is. The question to be answered is whether further medical treatment or surgery is called for.
Critics of Banamine insist that giving the drug just masks pain and does nothing to relieve the problem. It is true that when used in early colics Banamine is for pain management. Think of the worst stomach ache you ever had. In an effort to escape the cramping a horse will throw himself down and then roll violently, smashing his head against the ground or stall floor with every new attack. So, I’m all for all for relieving pain. Again, in those serious problems that require surgery Banamine will only lessen the pain temporarily. If the Banamine doesn’t work for very long or well, I know that this horse needs additional support and perhaps surgery.
Banamine does come in an injectable form, but in my opinion this should only be used intravenously. If you use it in the muscle the highly anti-inflammatory action of the drug will prohibit the body from fighting any bacteria that might be taken in with the needle. The result may be a very nasty abscess at the injection site. The paste works almost as fast as the injectable, and is safe. It is often astounding how well Banamine works. Wonder drug or not, I like to know that Banamine is in every stable’s first aid kit.
– David A. Jefferson, D.V.M