Effect of Firocoxib and Flunixin Meglumine on Large Colon Mural Thickness of Healthy Horses

Rebecca C. Bishop, Pamela A. Wilkins, Ann M. Kemper, Ruth M. Stewart, Annette M. McCoy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) administration carries risks of gastrointestinal toxicity. Selective COX-2 inhibitors (“coxibs”) were designed to reduce risks of adverse effects but are still associated with gastrointestinal complications in humans. The effect of coxibs on colonic inflammation and integrity in horses is unknown. The study objective was to compare the effects of the coxib firocoxib and the nonselective NSAID flunixin meglumine on ultrasonographic indicators of colonic inflammation in healthy horses. Twelve healthy adult horses were administered flunixin meglumine (1.1 mg/kg IV q12h) and omeprazole (1 mg/kg PO q24h) for 5 days, allowed a 6-month washout period, then administered firocoxib (0.3 mg/kg PO once, then 0.1 mg/kg PO q24h for 4 days) and omeprazole. Transabdominal ultrasonographic examination and serum chemistry profiles were performed at the beginning and end of each treatment week. Colon wall thickness increased over time when horses received firocoxib (median post treatment 5.8 mm, interquartile range 2.8 mm; P < 001), but not flunixin (median 3 mm, interquartile range 1.2 mm; P = .7) and was significantly greater following firocoxib compared to flunixin (P = .003). Subjectively, colonic edema was noted more frequently following treatment with firocoxib (11/12 horses), compared to flunixin (1/12 horses). There were no clinically significant alterations in hematologic parameters after administration of either drug. The increase in colon wall thickness following treatment with the COX-2 selective NSAID firocoxib may suggest a risk of subclinical colitis in healthy horses. Monitoring colonic health when NSAIDs are used in a clinical setting is warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104562
JournalJournal of Equine Veterinary Science
StatePublished - Jul 2023


  • COX-2 selective inhibitor
  • Coxib
  • Equine
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID)
  • Subclinical colitis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Equine


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