Joy came back from the show with more than ribbons. The pleasure mount had picked up a respiratory infection somewhere in her travels and was now a feverish, snotty messy. After evaluation and testing it was determined she had strangles, an infection of the upper respiratory tract. With quarantine protocols in place, the veterinarian gave Joy’s owner instructions on supportive nursing care, which included a daily NSAID.
NSAIDs aren’t just for treating injuries and arthritis. Systemic illnesses, such as respiratory infections, are also inflammatory processes. In this case, Banamine, our soft-tissue drug of choice, was used. It helped her feel better by inhibiting inflammation in the respiratory tract and by lowering the fever. But the benefits stretched beyond there: It also helped her breathe easier and because she felt better she was able to continue grazing and drink normally, which helped her avoid impaction colic. The judicious use of NSAIDs can help keep a small illness from snowballing into much larger problems.
I typically go with Banamine to treat a horse with a fever related to a systemic illness, delivering it as an injection myself and leaving the owner with a tube of paste for continued treatment. For a systemic illness, I typically try not to keep a horse on it for more than five days, at which point we’d expect him to be well on the road to recovery.