Higher Bute Doses: No Benefit But Higher Risks

Last Updated on February 23, 2022 by Allison Price

Researchers found that there was no difference in lameness scores between doubled doses.

Although it doesn’t provide more pain relief for lame horses (phenylbutazone), research suggests that it can increase his risk of developing potentially fatal toxicities.Researchers recommend that you try a different bute drug with a different action if the standard dose does not provide adequate pain relief.

“If the horse isn’t comfortable with the current dose, it’s not uncommon for the owner to give a higher amount of bute. The idea being that if more is good, then more must be better,” says

Ronald Erkert DVM, was the head of the Oklahoma State University study. “But, until now, nobody had looked into the effect of an increased dose on pain.

Higher Bute Doses

Three treatment protocols were applied to nine horses suffering from chronic forelimb lameness. Each protocol lasted four days and included a daily injectable dose of bute of two grams per 1000 pounds, four grams of bute daily, and a daily injection with saline solution (to serve as a control). The horses were examined prior to each treatment, and again six, twelve, and 24 hours later. A force plate was used to measure the peak vertical force exerted by their front limbs.

Researchers found no difference in the lameness scores of horses on either two grams/1,000 pound or four grams/1,000 pound of bute. Erkert says that while his research was focused on injectable bute, the same applies to oral bute. “Four grams per 1000 pounds a day is quite a lot, and it borders on toxic levels. But I know there are horses that use that amount because their owners feel they have to.” Other disorders that can be caused by bute toxicity include colic, gastric ulcers, kidney failure, diarrhea, endotoxic shock, and colic.

Like many nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAIDs), bute works by inhibiting pain-related inflammation. Erkert suggests that you try a different type of drug if the standard bute dose doesn’t provide adequate pain relief. “Horse owners should consult their veterinarians to discuss other pain-relief options, rather than reaching for more bute.

He is now conducting a study to compare the effects of one gram/1,000 pounds of bute daily to those of a two-grams/1,000-pound dose. It is possible to give a lower dose and get the same results.

Allison Price
Allison Price

I’m Allison, born and raised in San Diego California, the earliest memory I have with horses was at my grandfather’s farm. I used to sit at the stable as a kid and hang out with my Papa while he was training the horses. When I was invited to watch a horse riding competition, I got so fascinated with riding!