Previcox is a popular non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drug used by veterinarians. Firocoxib, as the drug is generically known, is becoming a widely used medication for a range of painful conditions in horses including: arthritis, navicular and tendon injuries. While licensed for use in small animals by the FDA, in its tablet form, Previcox is not technically licensed for equine use. It is a relatively new drug with some clear benefits over traditional NSAIDs, however some owners are unclear of its side effects.
The digestive system of the horse is one of the most vulnerable and sensitive organs in the body. NSAIDs primarily affect the gut and the kidneys. In the gut, one of the most concerning complications that can occur as a result of NSAID overdose is thickening and damage to the large colon. This is known as right dorsal colitis. The horse will have lower protein levels in the blood and thickening of the colon on ultrasound. Blood work and urinalysis are very helpful for detecting kidney damage. In order to detect side effects of an overdose of Firocoxib, the veterinarian should run tests to determine if there is a build-up of waste products in the bloodstream as well as increased protein in the urine.
Dosing the horse correctly with Firocoxib is essential to prevent side effects. Some horses can experience side effects at relatively low doses and as such, the horse should be closely monitored when starting a new medication. Most veterinarians start a horse new to Firocoxib on a dose (of the tablet form) of one 57mg tablet at a rate of 0.1 mg/kg of bodyweight per day.
According to federal law, when an equine specific formulation of a drug is available, it is then illegal to prescribe the generic version. Therefore although Previcox is popular with owners due to the relative lower cost, it should not be used as the first line treatment. An equine formulation of firocoxib called Equioxx is available for prescription. This paste or IV is specifically formulated for horses. Unlike tablets, it is difficult to overdose Equioxx paste because each tube carries only enough drug to treat a 1,250-pound animal. It is easy to administer but it appears use have been limited as Equioxx is relatively expensive, which is why more cost-effective Previcox has been widely used. It is advisable to seek your veterinarian’s advice on the best medication for your horse.
No drug is without risk, and as such it is advisable to give NSAIDs in as low a dose as possible, for as short a time period as possible to avoid complications.
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