The Truth About Intramuscular Banamine

Image0016As the nights grow colder and the weather begins to change, we all are keeping a close eye on our horses for signs of colic. Many of us keep Banamine, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory, stocked in our first aid kits and it is a drug we often reach for in emergency situations. After talking to your veterinarian you may be instructed to give Banamine – but how and where? Banamine comes in two forms – paste and injectable (liquid form). Paste can only be given by mouth, but injectable can be given multiple ways. If you have injectable Banamine you may be tempted to give it in the muscle. But before you give banamine in your horse’s muscle anymore – there’s something you should know.

If you read the label of the Banamine bottle, you will notice it lists intramuscular (IM) injection as a form of administration. Although uncommon, IM injection of banamine can lead to a life-threatening disease called clostridial myonecrosis. Clostridium is a genus of bacterium that sometimes is present on a horse’s skin or hair. This type of bacteria is anaerobic, which means that it grows best without oxygen. Banamine is known to be irritating to muscle, and if the bacteria seeds into the muscle with a Banamine injection, it is implanted into a plane of irritated tissue with little contact with oxygen – the perfect place for clostridial growth. Within a few days of injection, the injection takes over and the surrounding muscles become inflamed and then die (myo = muscle, necrosis = cell death). Hence, clostridial myonecrosis.

Clostridial myonecrosis is a very serious disease – an infected horse has only a 50% chance of survival with intensive care. The first signs of infection occur within a few days of injection and are often swelling, pain and heat around the injection site. The bacteria produces gas, so pressing on the swelling can feel crunchy with pressure. Simultaneously, the horse will become lethargic and may have a fever and reduced appetite from systemic release of bacterial toxins. These horses are critically ill and require emergency treatment by your veterinarian, including opening up of the injection site for drainage and oxygen exposure, antibiotic treatment and supportive care with IV fluids and anti-inflammatories. Another secondary risk is laminitis, and preventative care with ice boots and careful monitoring are also important.

So – you have injectable Banamine and you’re not comfortable giving it in the vein, so what else can you do? Liquid Banamine can safely be given by mouth. Simply draw up the same amount you would inject, remove the needle, and give by mouth the way you would a dewormer. Again, WE DO NOT RECOMMEND IM INJECTION OF BANAMINE. Keeping your horse comfortable and healthy both short term and in the long run is important to us all, and by simply giving banamine by mouth you eliminate the risk of this deadly disease. And as always, please call your veterinarian before administering any medications that were not already prescribed to ensure the correct amount and route of delivery!