Foes of Lasix are Cruel to Horses? Ridiculous Nonsense.

Our brilliant vets and trainers have discovered the only drug in the history of the world with no negative side effects, amazing! How lucky are our horses, huh?

What many horsemen fail to realize is that young 2yo horses are more than just a pair of lungs, most importantly they are running around with a still-developing skeletal system until past age 3. Proper exercise and nutrition has been shown to maximize bone density during this very important development phase for the competitive equine – but nearly no thought has been given to what undermines this skeletal foundation.

Everyone realizes that calcium is one of the necessary ingredients for bone health in humans and horses, it stands to reason that an owner/trainer would prefer that calcium be readily available for a growing horse. As a matter of fact, the marketplace is full of supplements containing extra calcium meant to optimize bone remodeling, so it must be on some radar screens.

Lasix causes the horse to excrete fluid, and accompanying this fluid loss is the loss of certain minerals, of which calcium is one. You see, Furosemide was developed in humans not to prevent EIPH, but to prevent kidney failure. While calcium is necessary for healthy bone growth and maintenance, it is an enemy of the diseased kidney, therefore Furosemide is used to get rid of it through excessive urination. So what we are left with is a young horse that is repeatedly asked to stress his bones at the maximum during breezes and races – all while being forced to do so without adequate amounts of calcium around to repair the subsequent damage.

But, weakening bones don’t keep horses from making starts as bleeding lungs most certainly do. So in their haste to get or keep a young horse racing – trainers inject Lasix for the purpose of stopping this EIPH, with no concern as to what repeated dosages of a diuretic before exercise do to the animal in question on a skeletal level. Not coincidentally, 65% of our top colts on the Derby trail in January are on the shelf by June:

Lasix, good for EIPH? Absolutely, unequivocally.
Bad for bones in a growing thoroughbred? Without a doubt.

Thoroughbred’s great weakness as a breed is their skeletal system. Selective mating has given us increasingly muscular horses with increasingly lighter bone structure, and the use of a calcium-leaching diuretic further exacerbates that inherent problem. Please forget the ‘dirt vs. synthetic’ argument: when we compare turf to turf stats, Australian horses (no Lasix) are faster than their US counterparts and breakdown at a MUCH lesser rate:

At last look, 2 of the top 6 horses in the world according to Timeform are Australian sprinters Black Caviar and Hay List. No American turf sprinters make the top 20. I’ve heard the subjective arguments that our turf courses are firmer than others and that is partially to blame for our sky high breakdown rate – but how can that be if our race times are slower? On turf US horses are allowed to use a potent diuretic 4 hours prior to post – and breakdown 3X more often while running slower finishing times, far from an ideal combination. I, for one, don’t require a Jockey Club sponsored study to confirm this fact.

Back on topic, here is a list of things that are truly cruel to horses:

-Withholding water after administering a diuretic in order to guarantee maximal weight loss before a race. This also guarantees systemic dehydration.
-Conditioning horses to breeze 4F yet expecting them to race 8F+.
-Refusing to employ any type of race specific warm up, as horses are drug around during the post parade by lead pony.
-Never galloping a horse further than 2 consecutive miles in its lifetime, depriving him of the chance to build up dense capillary beds in exercising muscles.
-Spending 9min per day per horse on the training track so you can get through your 40 head before 10am.
-A $1500 vet bill for one month described as ‘typical’ for a Derby horse, seen here where I Want Revenge required injections just to breeze 4F:

Here is what a typical gallop looks like for a horse that doesn’t need Lasix to run on dirt and doesn’t bleed (click to enlarge):

That’s nearly 4 miles at a 2:30 clip on dirt, at an intensity proven to optimize aerobic development and oxygen utilization, something this colt has been conditioned to perform over his career. He has built up large amounts of physiological structures that make EIPH less likely to occur.

His trainer is already preparing for the future where Lasix may be permanently banned – will others soon be forced to follow suit?

In short: trainers and vets are simply doing what they do in their own lives: taking a pill to solve a health problem rather than attempting to do so through diet and/or exercise. Remember Orlistat? Brand names are Alli and Xenical. Everyone thought they had the magic bullet to lose weight: sit on your butt, eat junk, and take an FDA approved pill that claimed to eliminate fat storage. Years later we find that Orlistat is extremely toxic to your liver, in addition to not really helping you lose all that much weight. Fen-Phen was another similar situation: OTC at any GNC store, later taken off the market due to deaths related to heart damage.

There are no shortcuts, there are no free lunches. If Lasix aids lung function, it must do so at the expense of another physiological component- in this case the already fragile skeletal system gets the short end of the syringe.


About bpressey

Equine Exercise Physiologist

Posted on July 21, 2011, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Even more disturbing, at this link top trainers were asked how they train to lessen the incidence of EIPH:

    Every answer involved the use of drugs, no one talked about more aerobic/gallop foundation, no one mentioned improved warm up, etc. Drugs, drugs, drugs.

  1. Pingback: Foes of Lasix are Cruel to Horses? Ridiculous Nonsense. (via ThoroEdge Equine Performance) « ReRider Who's Lucky To Cope

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