Boot the Bute: Avoiding Catastrophic Breakdowns at the Racetrack or Deception?

Written by JANE ALLIN
Chief Research/Analyst

Should horseracing 'Boot the Bute' altogether or just reduce its usage, and what impact would it have on the health of the racehorse and the industry?

A recent commentary by Eric Mitchell on The touches upon the controversial use of phenylbutazone, otherwise known as “Bute”, an analgesic non-steroidal anti-inflammatory introduced in the 1960’s and touted as a miracle drug for its calming effects on occupational lameness in racehorses.

In the sixties, the use of Bute was, by and large, above suspicion in nature with the objective of alleviating pain and discomfort during training sessions since most racing jurisdictions were drug-free at that time. Reprehensible is the sordid history and abuse that followed these seemingly protective measures of alleviating the rigor of long and strenuous training sessions in pursuit of speed and finesse on the track.

Soon, this “aspirin-like” drug became the panacea for all aches and pains related to intensive training work outs and their abusive toll on the tenuous extremities of the racing thoroughbred, most notably injuries common to the fetlock. So much so that in North America the very drug that was intended to act as an aid to recuperation and recovery became integral to masking injury.

Monetary selfishness surpassed compassion and Bute became the drug that changed the underlying philosophy of horse racing. As a result of its exceptional and long-lasting effectiveness in alleviating acute pain and inflammation, there was a buck to be made on artificially induced “wellness” and run these horses while pretentiously sound for the select purpose of enhancing performance of flawed horses.

The legalization of Bute no doubt engendered the drug culture in North America. Virtually every racehorse in North America today runs on Bute and Lasix, a diuretic to reduce swelling and fluid retention.
Fast forward to 2010.

The California Horse Racing Board under the patronage of Rick Arthur DVM and The Jockey Club has just this year cursorily recognized that “90% of all horses that suffer fatal musculoskeletal injuries have some pre-existing injury at the site of the fatal injury”. And, lo and behold, what do they attribute this to??? You guessed it; overmedication and subsequent lack of physical evidence of the lameness in the horse. My God where have these people been? The “drug dilemma” is “old” news!

Here is what they are recommending.

1 thought on “Boot the Bute: Avoiding Catastrophic Breakdowns at the Racetrack or Deception?”

  1. I am in agreement with this well written , well researched article, But, bute has a place, but it is often abused, as asprin for the human is a miracle, also is bute it can help immensely and give time ,since horses cannot tell you what is wrong and we have to figure out what the problem is, just as with asprin , it needs to be addressed with caution, and used they way it was meant to be used ,it is not a cure all just gives relief until the problem can be addressed and solved for what it is………………………………not meant to be cover up………………… Again all who administer it must use the good common sense……………..


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