I ALWAYS consider the consequences when it comes to taking medication or giving medication to my horses. “The person who takes medicine has to recover twice. Once from the disease, and once from the medicine.” – William Osler
This is true and it’s scary to think about. Take steroids for example. They are given to prevent the release of substances in the body that cause inflammation. Sounds good, right? Not when you also know that they greatly weaken the immune system, so much so, that if there is ANY infection present, the being is then unable to fight it off at all. If a disease, like Heaves, has any significant allergic component, it makes a healthy immune function imperative. If you have an impaired immune function, breathing will be much more difficult. Not only does the horse have to recover from the disease, then he also has to recover his immune function due to the medication.
“Drugs never cure disease. They merely hush the voice of nature’s protest, and pull down the danger signals she erects along the pathway of transgression. Any poison taken into the system has to be reckoned with later on, even though it masks present symptoms. Pain may disappear, but the patient is left in a worse condition, though unconscious of it at the time.” – Daniel H. Kress, M.D.
This is especially true when it comes to dealing with a horse that is lame. It seems that whether the lameness is from a known source, like laminitis, or an unknown source that is not diagnosed, the answer is always, “just give him Bute for a few days”. There are many problems with this answer that I won’t even go into, but just because the pain is alleviated for a bit, does that mean the problem is solved? No. What that means is that the horse felt better while on the Bute, and may have made the problem worse. If the problem isn’t worse, it certainly wasn’t resolved.
I’d like to encourage you to consider these things before you begin treatment for your horse’s problem out of fear. Sometimes it is the fear that drives us to make these decisions. Fear that the problem will worsen if not treated immediately with medication, or fear that your horse will not be able to handle the pain or discomfort. It’s hard to see our horses hurt. Of course we want to help and it is our responsibility to do so. But start with some research and find a way to help that will FIX the problem. Then when the symptoms go away you know your horse is actually recovering, naturally.