• horse;
  • NSAID;
  • exercise test;
  • oxygen uptake;
  • heart rate


Reasons for performing study: Since nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as flunixin, on account of their anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, are used in both racing and equestrian sport horses, the question has been raised as to whether these drugs affect the physiological responses to exercise and thus performance potential.

Objectives: The aims of this investigation were to study the effects of flunixin on cardiorespiratory, metabolic and locomotor parameters in horses during intense treadmill exercise.

Methods: Six Standardbred trotters underwent an incremental treadmill exercise test to fatigue, without drug and then after administration of flunixin meglumine (1.1 mg/kg bwt i.m.). Heart rate (HR), oxygen uptake and stride length were measured and venous blood samples drawn repeatedly during the test.

Results: Heart rates were found to be significantly higher at submaximal speeds, while the velocity causing a HR of 200 beats/min was significantly decreased after treatment with flunixin. Maximal HR and plasma lactate concentration 5 min after exercise were unchanged after medication. Flunixin caused higher plasma lactate concentrations at all speeds and the lactate threshold was decreased, compared with baseline values. Oxygen uptake levelled off at the highest velocities and did not change after flunixin treatment. Stride length was increased after treatment, although not at the highest velocities.

Conclusion: The increased HR and lactate responses to exercise after flunixin treatment indicate that it does influence physiological responses, but does not improve the performance potential of clinically healthy horses. However, the lengthened stride during submaximal exercise after medication could imply undetected subclinical lameness, masked in some of the horses, i.e. they have performed with a longer stride at the cost of a higher heart rate and an increased lactate concentration.