Either Way on Lasix, It’s Animal Cruelty

Raceday Lasix is one of the more controversial issues in American horseracing. The critics say that the drug is but a performance-enhancer: A diuretic, Lasix helps shed water weight prior to a race – lighter equals faster – and as a system flush may also aid in concealing some of the illegal stuff. Supporters, on the other hand, call Lasix “humane”: Rapidly moving racehorses, they say, naturally bleed – from their lungs – “exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage.” Prominent trainer Dale Romans (Paulick Report, 9/13/12): “Racing causes [EIPH] in 100% of horses. …one of the worst abuses that can be done to the racing horse is to ban Lasix.” Adds colleague Rick Violette (DRF, 8/11/11): “Horses bleed. That is a fact. To force an animal to race without [Lasix] is premeditated, borderline animal abuse.”

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That raceday Lasix – by the way, a uniquely North American thing – is primarily used to make horses faster is a pretty good bet. (While not all trainers particularly like it, practically all, so as not to cede any competitive ground, use it.) But what if the Romans/Violette crowd is also correct – that pulmonary bleeding is inherent in a racing-horse? Translated, this would mean that the “sport’s” fundamental physical action universally causes some level of pain or suffering. Of what other basic sporting motion can this be said? Throwing a baseball? Swinging a golf club? Kicking a soccer ball? If not for the deadly seriousness of it all, these people would be laughable.

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  1. Patrick, excellent post. Oh, and I have had pro-racing folks say that their horses run “clean” even though it is easy to ascertain that their horses are running on Lasix (Equibase). Not all states require bute to be listed in the charts but all states do require that Lasix be listed. It has always bewildered me that these people, whose horses are “loved” and are just like “family”, can’t seem to admit that Lasix and bute are BOTH drugs…yes, BOTH are drugs. Are they in denial, or are they delusional, or are they just plain dumb? I have no idea but, for some reason, these folks seem to struggle with the truth…the elusive truth. Remember the motto of the racing industry…drug them and run them. So very sad….

  2. Horses on Lasix can become dehydrated, heat stroke or the combination of both.
    Dehydration is severe fluid loss through sweating and urination. If the water is not replenished sodium and potassium rise to toxic levels resulting in cramping, nausea, headache and finally a coma or even death. For every 1 hour of walking in the heat of the day, a human can sweat off 1 to 2 quarts of fluid. Imagine how much a horse will sweat off in an hour of walking, training, racing. Symptoms are excessive thirst, dizziness, nausea and they will lose strength, pass out and the little fluid that is left in their body is being diverted to their vital organs. If only the horse could tell you how thirsty he is, if only the owner, trainer, or jockey would lead their horse to water, he would drink. How many more youngsters have to die before its realized that Lasix will lead to dehydration, high sodium and potassium levels can cause cramping of the muscles, and what is the heart? The largest muscle in your body, hence heart attack, death. This is a death sentence to your Thoroughbred racing horse, hence your cash cow. As Patrick would say, this is horseracing.

    When a horse becomes overheated, it is dehydrated, and may have a heat stroke or the combination of both. Dehydration is severe fluid loss through sweating and urination. If the water is not replenished sodium and potassium rise to toxic levels resulting in cramping, nausea, headache and finally a coma. For every 1 hour of walking in the heat of the day, a human can sweat off 1 to 2 quarts of fluid. Imagine how much a horse will sweat off in an hour of walking, training, showing. Symptoms are excessive thirst, dizziness, nausea and they will lose strength, pass out and the little fluid that is left in their body is being diverted to their vital organs. If only the horse could tell you how thirsty he is, if only the owner, trainer, rider would lead their horse to water, he would drink. How many more youngsters have to die before its realized that the heat, stress, pain being inflicted onto the horse will lead to dehydration, high sodium and potassium levels can cause cramping of the muscles, and what is the heart? The largest muscle in your body, hence heart attack, death.

    NOVEMBER 6, 2013

    “Lasix begets a plethora of additional drug use. Wherever pre-race Lasix is permitted, additional drugs are administered to most all of the diuretically-infused racing horses by their trainers and attending veterinarians. Lasix allows and encourages a lot of drug use. It legitimized the stage for the medication mentality that has haunted racing in recent years with all the notable breakdowns, sudden deaths and wrecks.”

    “Lasix or Salix is furosemide, a potent diuretic that dilutes the urine and lowers the pulmonary blood pressure. The drug alters the electrolyte balance of racing horses and makes them vulnerable to heat stroke and metabolic dysfunction. As well, chronic diuretic use interferes with locomotory abilities required to run biomechanically sound by altering cardiac function, muscle function, nerve function, and most every other physiologic function.”

    “Diuretics weaken horses. These days there is little doubt that pharmaceutically weakened horses are more vulnerable to breaking down. It is not surprising that Lasix jurisdictions have more breakdowns than drug-free jurisdictions. We should have known. Now we know.”

    Lasix Is Bad for Horses

    With the Lasix ban for juveniles ending with this past weekend’s Breeders’ Cup and a trend toward keeping the drug raceday legal in the U.S., I thought it appropriate to revisit these words written by equine veterinarian Sid Gustafson in The New York Times a couple years back (10/28/11). At the time, Gustafson believed that Lasix was on its way out.

    “The only ones who benefit from racehorses being medicated on raceday are the attending veterinarians and, subsequently, the veterinary surgeons. …the science continues to demonstrate that chronic use of raceday drugs degrades the quality and safety of racing while impoverishing the welfare of racehorses. Raceday medications increase the breakdown rate.”

    “Lasix begets a plethora of additional drug use. Wherever pre-race Lasix is permitted, additional drugs are administered to most all of the diuretically-infused racing horses by their trainers and attending veterinarians. Lasix allows and encourages a lot of drug use. It legitimized the stage for the medication mentality that has haunted racing in recent years with all the notable breakdowns, sudden deaths and wrecks.”

    “Lasix or Salix is furosemide, a potent diuretic that dilutes the urine and lowers the pulmonary blood pressure. The drug alters the electrolyte balance of racing horses and makes them vulnerable to heat stroke and metabolic dysfunction. As well, chronic diuretic use interferes with locomotory abilities required to run biomechanically sound by altering cardiac function, muscle function, nerve function, and most every other physiologic function.”

    “Diuretics weaken horses. These days there is little doubt that pharmaceutically weakened horses are more vulnerable to breaking down. It is not surprising that Lasix jurisdictions have more breakdowns than drug-free jurisdictions. We should have known. Now we know.”

    “In two years, American racing jurisdictions are scheduled to join the rest of the racing horse world and eliminate Lasix in the United States and Canada. …Good riddance to Lasix and all the drug use it has encouraged and facilitated. Good riddance to Lasix and all the electrolyte imbalances, metabolic dysfunctions, shortened careers, breakdowns and weaknesses the drug has caused…”

  3. Absolutely, Patrick. And to think, the bleeders that DO manifest their EIPH with epistaxis are a very small percentage – one study as low as 0.15% but at most, only 1% to 2%! So when your weekly casualties lists have several horses’ names listed as returning with “nose bleeds”, we can be certain that there were more that bled, as well! – and bled through their performance-enhancing Lasix!

  4. Thank you Patrick for all that you and your followers are doing to expose the crimes in the “sport” of horse racing.

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