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Bute - phenylbutazone

Phenylbutazone (nicknamed bute) is an anti-inflammatory drug, similar to ibuprofen. It is used to relieve pain in injuries and is usually effective but there are side effects. Hence, horse owners are encouraged to limit the dose to what is effective and no more. Other pain killers are available nowadays.



Colic is a general term used to refer to an unpredictable and painful problem in a horse’s abdomen. 
There are multiple types:

  • gas colic- the microbes in the colon (inside of the gut) produce excessive gas.

  • impaction colic- feed builds up in the colon.

  • poor blood supply to gut- more common in older horses, fatty tumours that can wrap around the small intestine and reduce blood flow. Sometimes parasites move through the blood vessels and cause direct damage to the vessels and indirect damage to the gut.

  • poor motility- infections in gut or in abdominal cavity which means toxins coming from the blood.


Here are some signs that your horse may have colic, it is best to check for these regularly in order to catch the colic in an early stage.

  • ​change in drinking behaviour

  • heart rate over 45-50 bpm (in order to find your horse’s heart rate, stand on the left side and place a stethoscope just under the elbow of your horse)

  • poor eating behaviour 

  • frequent looks towards their side

  • biting/kicking flank/belly

  • lying down or rolling frequently or more often than usual

  • little/ no passing of manure or manure dry or covered in mucus

What to do

Here is what to do when you receive a diagnosis of colic in your horse:

  • walking can provide pain relief and encourage motility if the horse has cramps or has an early stage of colic. It can also stop the horse rolling.

  • if the horse wants to roll frequently, put them in an open area to stop the horse becoming cast rolling in a stall or small area.

  • if your horse begins uncontrollably thrashing, stay out of the way.

  • don’t walk if the horse has any of the following as it may increase severity: -pleuritis (swelling of the chest cavity- press ribs to feel) -tying up (when muscles look swollen/ feel firm due to muscle trauma) -laminitis/ founder (heat and pain in the foot)


Colic is unpredictable and hard to prevent, however, these methods can reduce the chance of your horse developing colic:

  • less grain feeds

  • fresh, clean water

  • pasture turnout

Veterinarian exams

Here are some exams that may take place to determine whether your horse may have colic:

  • routine physical exam- assesses heart status and identifies signs of shock or toxemia.

  • nasogastric tube- depending on your situation, a vet may pass a nasogastric tube which is a narrow tube which runs from nostrils to stomach to make sure fluid hasn’t built-up in the stomach.

  • rectal exam- palpate back half of the gut.

  • belly tap- collect fluid for testing.

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