The American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) says it is committed to identifying non-raceday treatment alternatives to Lasix to reduce the chances of racehorses bleeding into their lungs.
Lasix, the common brand name for a diuretic called furosemide, is used on raceday by many trainers in the US to reduce the chances of a condition called exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhaging (EIPH) – the bleeding in the lungs that can occur while horses are racing.
The industry in North America is divided over its raceday use.
The drug is known to reduce the chance of bleeding in the lungs in horses during physical exertion. However, animals given the drug shed a large amount of water and can race up to 25 pounds lighter. Supporters say furosemide protects the health of horses and a ban would result in more racehorses pulling up with blood coming from their noses.
Opponents say that permitting the drug is damaging the sport’s reputation.
The AAEP has announced a multi-part initiative which it says is aimed at protecting the health and welfare of racehorses and ensuring the long-term viability of the US industry,
The central component of its Prescription for Racing Reform is a commitment to find raceday alternatives to furosemide.
The AAEP Racing Committee held a strategic planning session in late February to address key issues affecting the health of racehorses. The result was the development of a 10-point plan designed to both protect the health of racing’s equine athletes and strengthen the integrity of the sport.
The AAEP says it supports the use of furosemide to control the negative effects of EIPH in racehorses. However, it acknowledges that race-day administration of any medication is seen by many as problematic for the sport.
The AAEP will pursue other options by consulting with scientists, including experts in the fields of equine EIPH, pulmonary function and human sports medicine, with the goal of identifying research priorities that may yield effective alternatives.
The body will then seek funding for identified research projects.
“Our desire to investigate non-race day treatment alternatives for EIPH serves both the horse and the industry and we are committed to developing a strategy that goes beyond the simple cessation of race-day medication,” AAEP president Kent Carter said.
“As doctors of veterinary medicine, we want to contribute to the success of the racing industry but must remain committed to protecting the health and welfare of the horse as our foremost priority.”
Anabolic steroids and NSAIDS
The association said anabolic steroids were already banned for horses actively competing. The AAEP supported the complete discontinuation of systemic anabolic steroid use in horses currently in training.
It also supported restricting the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to 48 hours before racing. The current NSAID rules in most jurisdictions allow 24-hour administration before racing.