Racing and EIPH
“Today over 99% of Thoroughbred racehorses and 70% of Standardbred racehorses have a needle stuck in them 4 hours before a race,” says Willie Koester, the chairman of the Association of Racing Commissioners International (Paulick). The sole drug that is given intravenously or intramuscularly to a racehorse to increase performance is a diuretic called Furosemide, or the trade name Lasix. Lasix is the number one controversy in racing since the 1960’s with its first user the 1964 Kentucky Derby winner, Northern Dancer.
Exercise Induced Pulmonary Hemorrhage, or EIPH; is defined as blood entering the small pulmonary air passages of the lungs, blood entering the lungs causes air passageways to become obstructed which results in labored breathing thus a lack in performance (Stanback). First documented in the early 1800’s, the only symptom was that of epistaxis. It wasn’t until the 1970’s that veterinarians realized it was not the only symptom because the invention of the fiber optic microscope, which allowed a look into a horse’s upper respiratory system(The Lasix Question). Finally they could tell the origin of the bleeding and also that EIPH can still occur without epistaxis being evident. The question still arises today though, how exactly did the blood get in there? Modern medicine has came up with 2 theories that could explain how this happens. The first theory being that high vascular pressure within the lungs during strenuous exercise leads to the pulmonary hemorrhaging. During demanding work horses, like all animals, have to find a way to give their muscles oxygen and nutrients. Also like in all animals red blood cells do that job. In a resting horse ⅓ of red blood cells are stored in the spleen (Exercise ...
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...Lasix will benefit the industry long-term (Angst). While the Wests still believe discontinuing race-day Lasix would negatively affect racing and breeding in the U.S. As a result Gary West donated $1 million dollars for a “thorough, objective, well-designed, scientific study of the consequences of the use of or non-use of Lasix.” He stated he wanted the Breeder’s Cup to take control of the study (Angst).
EIPH is a serious subject matter in modern horse racing, also just as controversial. Starting with the famous Northern Dancer, to 2009 being the last time a non 2 year old horse without Furosemide was run at a high stakes race with exception of the Breeder’s Cup. Lawsuits and activists for Lasix aside, it’s your choice to decide what side you’re on. Either way EIPH is not going to disappear and it’s up to us to find what the best treatment is for our beloved breed.
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