Veterinarians at UF test drug for horses

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB)-- Veterinarians at the University of Florida's College of Veterinary Medicine and Racing Laboratory will soon be conducting a study on a local anesthetic and how it reacts when used on Thoroughbred horses.

The drug Bupivacaine is meant to block the nerve impulses that send pain signals to the brain.

Assistant Professor of Large Animal Surgery at the University of Florida, Taralyn McCarrel, said this anesthetic could really help a horse after a surgery.

"We occasionally have horses that we do surgery on their foot and it will be quite painful immediately after the surgery and so if we can block pain before it starts and keep that horse comfortable for the first couple of days, their overall level of pain will be less,” she said.

Up until now, Bupivacaine has been mostly used on cats and dogs. McCarrel and her team will conduct the study on Thoroughbred horses already at the university, to compare closely with actual racehorses.

According to the Director of the Racing Laboratory at UF, Cynthia Cole, the goals of this study are to determine how the drug affects horses, what amount of the drug is enough to produce a local anesthetic effect and how long can the drug be detected after being administered.

The study will also look at the potential for misuse of the drug in racehorses.

"This is the type of study that is very proactive. We have no reason to believe that this drug is being abused in racehorses but we see that there is a potential for it and so with the support of the RMTC (Racing Medication and Testing Consortium) we're helping to develop these methods and be really proactive and ensure that these horses are treated the best they can be,” Cole said.

She added that the drug could also mask lameness in horses which is also cause for investigation.

The Racing Medication and Testing Consortium awarded a grant to conduct the study. Testing is expected to begin in the fall and will last roughly a year.