Last Updated on October 7, 2022
If your horse is suffering from a health problem, your veterinarian may suggest trying DMSO. But what is DMSO for horses and how do you use it? If you are considering whether using DMSO on your horse is a good idea, we’ve got everything you need to know right here!
What Is DMSO For Horses?
Dimethyl sulfoxide, or DMSO, is a potent medication with a long and complicated history. It was first discovered as a waste product from the paper manufacturing industry, and scientists realized that it may have potential as a medical treatment. However, due to concerns about toxic side effects, it was not widely used for many years.
Over the following years, researchers discovered that DMSO had some interesting effects on inflammation in the body when administered to horses. It is classified as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), meaning that it can be administered to reduce pain. But as well as being an effective painkiller, it also has properties that enable it to reduce the detrimental side effects of inflammation in the body.
This is because DMSO is able to destroy free radicals, which are produced as a response to inflammation. Free radicals are a by-product of inflammation but also contribute to further inflammation, causing an ongoing inflammatory cycle. DMSO can bind with free radicals and stop their damaging effects, reducing inflammation much more rapidly than with the use of many other NSAIDs.
DMSO is highly soluble and able to pass through tissues and cell membranes easily, enabling it to reach areas of pain and inflammation quickly. It also binds with other drugs, transporting them around the body more rapidly. This synergistic effect means that lower therapeutic levels of various medications can be achieved by using them alongside DMSO.
However, it is important to remember to be cautious when using DMSO on horses. The very properties that make it a highly effective medication can also bring about some unwanted and potentially dangerous side effects.
For example, DMSO binds to other substances and transports them to areas where they would not normally reach. If your horse has a substance on his skin such as fly repellent and you then apply DMSO on top of it, DMSO will transport it through the skin and into the circulatory system. This can potentially be very dangerous for your horse.
DMSO is also a diuretic, meaning it causes increased urination as a result of water being expelled from the body. If a horse is already dehydrated or suffering from any conditions that compromise the liver or kidneys, this could potentially be fatal.
DMSO Uses In Horses Explained
So, now we know what DMSO in horses is, we need to look at how it is used. This medication can be used to treat a number of different health problems, although the advantages and disadvantages of each individual case must be weighed up first. The reason for this is the high risk of toxic side effects and reactions if DMSO is given to an unsuitable patient.
DMSO can be administered to horses in a variety of different ways. It can be used as a topical gel, applied to the skin of a horse. It can also be given by intravenous injection, or orally via a nasogastric tube. The dosage and route of administration will be decided by your veterinarian – never give DMSO to a horse without the advice of your veterinarian.
How To Use DMSO For Pain In Horses
DMSO can be given by intravenous injection where it acts as a systemic anti-inflammatory and painkiller. It will normally be given in this manner when horses are hospitalized for intensive treatment, as they will need to be monitored closely for potential side effects. It may be necessary to put the horse on intravenous fluid therapy to counteract the diuretic properties of DMSO.
Veterinarians will use DMSO as an intravenous injection as a treatment for a variety of disorders, such as rhabdomyolysis, neurological disorders, tendinitis, arthritis, or laminitis. It is important to remember that DMSO is not licensed for this purpose, so your veterinarian will weigh up the merits of using DMSO on a case-by-case basis.
Is DMSO Gel For Horses Effective?
DMSO gel has some interesting properties when applied directly to the skin. Firstly, it works alone as an anti-inflammatory, although it does generate some localized short-term heat and swelling in the area. It is also thought to have some antimicrobial properties, helping to fight infection.
DMSO is often administered in conjunction with other medications, as it is able to bind onto and transport them deeper into the body tissues. This is especially useful in deep-seated conditions such as mud fever and thrush.
How To Apply DMSO On Horses
If your veterinarian has prescribed DMSO gel for your horse, it will come with a long list of precautions. It is vital not to get any DMSO gel on your skin, so you need to wear clean gloves every time you apply the gel.
The area of skin where DMSO gel is to be applied must also be scrupulously clean, as DMSO can carry potentially toxic substances deep into the skin where they can enter other body systems. The affected area should be thoroughly cleaned before DMSO is applied.
It is also vital that your horse cannot access the area where DMSO has been applied, as he may inadvertently get it on his muzzle and other body parts. This can cause unwanted and debilitating side effects.
Summary – What Is DMSO For Horses
So, as we have learned, DMSO for horses is a medication with potent pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effects. However, it can cause serious health problems if used incorrectly, so you should only administer DMSO on the advice of your veterinary surgeon. If using DMSO gel, wear clean gloves every time to protect your skin.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on what is DMSO for horses! Have you ever had good results in using DMSO to treat health problems in your horse? Or perhaps you’re concerned about the potentially toxic side effects of using DMSO on your horse? Leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you!
Kate Chalmers is a qualified veterinary nurse who has specialized in horse care for the vast majority of her career. She has been around horses since she was a child, starting out riding ponies and helping out at the local stables before going on to college to study Horse Care & Management. She has backed and trained many horses during her lifetime and competed in various equestrian sports at different levels.
After Kate qualified as a veterinary nurse, she provided nursing care to the patients of a large equine veterinary hospital for many years. She then went on to teach horse care and veterinary nursing at one of the top colleges in the country. This has led to an in-depth knowledge of the care needs of horses and their various medical ailments, as well as a life-long passion for educating horse owners on how to provide the best possible care for their four-legged friends.
Kate Chalmers BSc (Hons) CVN, Dip AVN (Equine) Dip HE CVN EVN VN A1 PGCE