The LASIX Debate

markinsacmarkinsac Member
edited March 2013 in General Interest
Horse racing is facing a myriad of problems. Perhaps one of the biggest is LASIX. Lasix is a drug that supposedly helps stop bleeding that occurs when race horses perform at top speeds. The drug was introduced in the 1970's, at a time when American race horses started at an average of over eleven times a year. Nearly every other country around the globe has banned Lasix. And those horses in foreign countries start double or sometimes triple the number of times their American counterparts do.

There is a tremendous divide in the American racing community as to the benefits of Lasix. Horse trainers seem to have sided on the Lasix is good camp, owners have backed them up too. The ones against are racing associations, the most prominent, the Breeders' Cup people who had agreed to ban Lasix in this year's races. But that ban has been lifted, perhaps for fear of a boycott by owners and trainers which would cost the BC dearly in betting handle. Shorter fields lead to smaller betting pools which lead to smaller profits.

But while the dust is still smoldering, the forgotten entities is the horses and the bettors. Lasix will reduce the weight of a race horse about ten pounds or more. We can all assume that will enhance a horses performance; think if you lost a pound or two, you'd be able to run faster. The downside, after a race, it takes a race horse more time to gain that weight back, meaning less starts, shorter fields and a question: Why do owners and trainers support Lasix if it results in less starts. Both owners and trainers receive more purse money when their horse start more times

We don't see horses racing in Europe, Australia and South America keeling over from bleeding problems. And back when Lasix was introduced, nearly every major professional handicapper pointed out that a horse was on Lasix "for the first time."

So why the support for Lasix? There are some murmers that Lasix will help other legal and illegal drugs from NOT showing up in post-race tests. Lasix could be used as a mask.

It's hard for Lasix supporters to explain that racing in the rest of the world isn't working. If anything, it's working better.


  • EriNCEriNC Member
    Another point is that it is given even if the horse has never bled before. Pants On Fire developed a bad bleed during the Kentucky Derby on Lasix. So there is no guarantee it even works. It is overused and needs to have more guidelines and regulations. Since 1970 when Lasix was first introduced the thoroughbred racehorse has been getting more and more fragile who is to say that this isn't a side effect of the Lasix?
  • Also, doesn't lasix effect how long a horse can come back from it being in their system? They take a long break between races these days
  • Lasix is a diuretic and is most usually prescribed to remove fluid, so no wonder these horses lose weight.

    I have known for years that racehorses were given Lasix, but it has really never made any sense to me as to why.

    Here are the side effects of Lasix in humans and I think it is safe to say that horses could experience them as well:

    ringing in your ears, hearing loss;
    itching, loss of appetite, dark urine, clay-colored stools, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes);
    severe pain in your upper stomach spreading to your back, nausea and vomiting;
    weight loss, body aches, numbness;
    swelling, rapid weight gain, urinating less than usual or not at all;
    chest pain, new or worsening cough with fever, trouble breathing;
    pale skin, bruising, unusual bleeding, feeling light-headed, rapid heart rate, trouble concentrating;
    low potassium (confusion, uneven heart rate, leg discomfort, muscle weakness or limp feeling);
    low calcium (tingly feeling around your mouth, muscle tightness or contraction, overactive reflexes);
    headache, feeling unsteady, weak or shallow breathing; or
    severe skin reaction -- fever, sore throat, swelling in your face or tongue, burning in your eyes, skin pain, followed by a red or purple skin rash that spreads (especially in the face or upper body) and causes blistering and peeling.
    Less serious side effects of furosemide may include:

    diarrhea, constipation, stomach pain;
    dizziness, spinning sensation; or
    mild itching or rash

  • Ew, too many side effects
  • carolinarkansascarolinarkansas hot springs, arkansasMember
    Everything has side effects...all meds...lots of naturally occurring substances ...vitamins...minerals....protiens supplements .....everything....drug companies are required to list all of them....even the one in a billion ones...
    I will not comment on the use of lasix in horses ....but my husband takes it daily or he would drown in his own fluids...he has none of the side effects described above
  • I wish racing here in America had some sort of central governing body that would stand up and ban Lasix/salix/feurmiside for say 5 years and then see how :-/ the sport changed...? 70's the decade of racing, all downhill from there... wish this stuff was never introduced :(
  • caseycasey any racetrack with camera in handMember

    Furosemide decreases blood pressure which is thought to be what causes EIPH. SInce EIPH is found in virtually 85-95% of racehorses, is progressive (gets worse with each bleed) and can cause on track fatalities, and it is the only treatment that actually reduces bleeding, it seems to me that race day use of furosemide is a no-brainer. In the US, we do not train on it as is done in other countries. Since it is used only on race day, the cumulative side effects are minimal compared with day to day usage as seen in other countries. As far as a horse being 10 lbs lighter for a race due to it's use, doesn't mean it increases performance. Countries that don't allow Lasix, restrict water consumption for hours before a race, effectively creating the same issue.

    And, furosemide is first and foremost a human drug, as Carolinarkansas points out. It is used to treat high blood pressure and congestive heart failure in humans (and small animals as well). Giving a single injection on race day does not cause the electrolyte imbalances caused by chronic use of the trug (as in training use vs single use on race day)
  • It may help some humans, but does EVERY human take it?

    What is a NO-BRAINER is this stat:

    Since the introduction of Lasix, American race horses number of average starts has gone from over 11 to 6.

    Coincedently, there has been NO Triple Crown winner since the beginning of Lasix as horses need more time to recuperate from the drug.

    What baffles the mind is that some prominent owners of American race horses are adamant about keeping Lasix around even though horses were doing just fine before it and the Euros are not keeling over.

    Just what are they trying to hide?
  • People get dependent on it. You get used to using one thing it's hard to break after a while.
  • caseycasey any racetrack with camera in handMember
    edited March 2013
    no, not all humans take Lasix, however in the US we don't categorize a horse as a bleeder when the have bilateral epistaxis either. We tend to be proactive (scoping for signs of bleeding) rather than waiting for a visual bleed. Why? Because by the time you SEE blood, damage has occurred. As the bleeding progressively gets worse each time it happens, the category becomes higher risk. Trainers in the US, as well as veterinarians, prefer to catch it early. Many countries don't even report if a horse bleeds, it's part of the "secrecy of the sport" (and yes, I am quoting from a questionnaire harness racing sent out to a bunch of countries) Those countries allow for Lasix use in training (which is pretty much every day) so depletion of minerals & electrolyte imbalances are far more likely to occur in those horses than in ones who only get it on raceday. Also, many countries withhold water for several hours prior to racing, so the argument that Lasix offers an unfair advantage by causing the horse to lose water weight is moot-the horses without water are losing it too.

    40 years ago, equine medicine was in the dark ages- it has progressed exponentially since then with better diagnostics, the ability to treat difficult, even formerly fatal illnesses. Research is continuing into EIPH and how to prevent it or lessen its effects, but for now, the only PROVEN way to lessen its effect is the administration of Lasix
  • "carolinarkansas" wrote Everything has side effects...all meds...lots of naturally occurring substances ...vitamins...minerals....protiens supplements .....everything....drug companies are required to list all of them....even the one in a billion ones...
    I will not comment on the use of lasix in horses ....but my husband takes it daily or he would drown in his own fluids...he has none of the side effects described above.

    Carolinarkansas, I wish to apologize to you. It was not my intention to downplay the good benefits of Lasix.

    My 94 year old mother takes Lasix as well and has for several years. If she did not have Lasix she would be in dialysis or possibly even dead by now. She did have an irregular heartbeat as the result of her potassium falling very low, but she now takes potassium to counteract that reaction and so far she has not had anymore irregular heartbeats that resulted in her fainting.

    Lasix was given to my beloved Aussie/Healer about ten years ago when she developed a very rare lung disease that resulted in a fluid buildup in her lungs.

    So Lasix does have its uses. I am just not sure that it should be given to race horses as a preventative medication for something they may or may not have.

  • Is there a way to test if a horse is a bleeder? If there is why don't we just give it to horses that actually need it. Then the ones that are not bleeder don't have to take lasix. Some people say it does not give a horse an advantage to run on lasix so why can't this be a solution. Unless the horses running on lasix actually have an advantage.
  • Ann_MareeAnn_Maree Member
    edited March 2013
    Everything has side effects...all meds...lots of naturally occurring substances ...vitamins...minerals....protiens supplements .....everything....drug companies are required to list all of them....even the one in a billion ones...
    I will not comment on the use of lasix in horses ....but my husband takes it daily or he would drown in his own fluids...he has none of the side effects described above
    Caroline, the condition for which your husband takes the drug is not the same as what they give it to horses for. I know you are aware of that. Just differentiating this for purposes of the discussion. I don't think we would even be having this debate if the racing community had kept the use of the drug for only those horses that truly needed it. Because it quickly became apparent that the drug has performance enhancing qualities, the racing community quickly came up with a revised definition so they could justify the drug's use for virtually all horses.

    The more I read about the drug, I understand that for some horses it does seem to provide help for the bleeding that some horses experience. However, the other side of the coin is they give an electrolyte-, mineral-depleting drug to a horse, causing massive amounts of water loss -- this is just insane, when you think about it. Human runners are told to take in lots of water and fluids during heavy exertion, yet, with lasix, they are draining fluids and nutrients from a horse's system at a time when they need it the most.

    The thing is, they did without it for hundreds of years and came up with conditioning and training which helped most horses. That is, until the last 40 years, when trainers found a drug could substitute for horsemanship. The bad thing I'm finding out about the drug is that it can mask being able to know which horses are true bleeders, to keep them out of the gene pool.

    I have read about conditioning of horses to lessen the amount of pressure that can build up in the walls of the capillaries during heavy exertion. One simple way they used to do a lot was let a horse have a short "blow-out" before a race. I can't give the clinical definition of what happens, but it has something to do with draining old blood from the spleen and replenishing the spleen with fresh, oxygen-filled cells. Also, it stretches the walls of the capillaries ahead of time, kind of like a warm-up a runner would do before running a race. The other part of this, in the U.S., the length of races has gotten shorter and shorter, so that most of our races are sprints, which means a horse has to come out of the gate at break-neck pace and continue throughout the race. Whereas, in longer or "route" races, horse have time to gradually build up through pacing themselves throughout the race.

    I truly believe there is more than one thing going on to make our American horses more fragile, but it is my firm belief that lasix plays a huge part in this.

    Finally, a question I like to ask of those who are pro-lasix, how has the rest of the world gotten along without it? Horses overseas experience a lot fewer breakdowns than our American horses. They race more often. They are fitter. As one breeder said recently, we tried the drugs for 40 years, and the number of starts per horse has fallen a tremendous amount. The statistics of a report by BloodHorse 5 years ago indicate the number of starts has declined by about 50% in the last 40 years. They started using the drugs to help horses race more....the opposite has occurred. There is absolutely no justification to give a horse a drug that has proven to shorten his career -- JMHO. There are some jurisdictions that allow the drug to be used in training, however, the drug may not show up in a test within 3 days in some jurisdictions or longer in others. So, it is not used in training as much as some try to say. It is very hard to separate the hysteria from the facts.

    The Hong Kong Jockey Club states: Their [Hong Kong Jockey Club] philosophical resistance to Lasix lies in the belief that they should not "pharmacologically adapt the horse to the demands of the industry," rather, they should adapt the demands of the industry to the limitations of the horse.

    Isn't it rather arrogant to think that the U.S. is right, and the rest of the world is wrong? Again, JMHO.

  • Here is the link to a study that was done on Canada on Lasix. Very interesting article.
  • RachelRachel Member
    edited March 2013
    There's going to be a siminar on Flair Strips in April. They are the alternative to lasix and safer. Like a breathe right strip it goes over the nose and opens up the airways so that horses can breathe better, not used just in racing its also used in cross country eventing and show jumping. However NY outlaws it, but in a race at Aqueduct I saw a horse trained by asmussen wearing one, I thought that was a bit fishy. IHA wasn't allowed to wear his for the Belmont.
  • What is the logic behind NY racing banning Flair Strips? Is there an explanation? I remember the discussion last year when IHA shipped in. Last year was a joke; holding barns, disruption beyond reason of the routine of the Belmont runners, inspection of feed tubs, no wonder most of America does not understand or care about racing, it's a terrible shame. Beautiful sport with history in this country, and it is being ruined. Lasix use is a huge part of it, drugging horses is a huge turnoff to the average American, intolerable...
  • carolinarkansascarolinarkansas hot springs, arkansasMember
    I do not see how flair strips could be an alternative to Salix...they would possibly keep nasal passages open...but that would not necessarily translate into keeping lungs from bleeding and crippling a horse.....please explain?
  • AUSIAUSI Member
    People - the rationale is a simple one - Lasix reduces blood pressure and thus reduces the tendency to bleed. So that you can see the parrallel - a human with high blood pressure reduces blood pressure to reduce the risk of stroke (a bleed into the brain).
    Should lasix be used - NO.
    The thoroughbred industry is missing on some fundamentals these days. The aim in breeding a racehorse is to breed a SUPERIOR ATHLETE. This requires optimum conditions at all times.
    In the mare - peak nutrition and health prior to conception, optimum management, particularly nutrition, plus parasite control, teeth, feet during pregnancy and perfect management of the foal, weanling, yearling after birth.
    Too many horses are bred these days that are aimed at being high priced sale yearlings - they are cotton - wooled. A bit like lot feeding cattle.
    Animal husbandry produces the top horses - peak nutrition etc plus letting the weanlings, yearlings run in big undualting paddocks in a mob (herd) - so that they learn how to compete, become nimble on their feet and are athletic.
    The aim is to breed bigger stronger and more athletic individuals.
    Does a young horse need EXTRA HELP - anabolics etc? - NO - it makes the young horse too heavy, closes the epeiphyses younger (produces heavier, more muscular, and shorter horses).
    The aim must be to produce TALLER HORSES - yet the thoroughbred is stuck in the 15.3 - 16.1 range - WHY? - because they are not managed properly.
    How many breeders understand the science?
    Most breeders are merchant bankers, top end of town business people and dont know or are horseman who do it the way they learnt it from the fathers or other previous mentor - dont understand WHY the BASICS are so important.
    GENETICS - yes it is important - but basically all horses are well bred and have mainly the same genes - its just a matter of from which direction they get these genes - true outcroses are rare - beacuse the outcross stallion is rare as a source these days.
    When you get a BIG HORSE -look what happens - ZENYATTA, MAKYBE DIVA, SECRATARIAT
    Rememeber the fine line is 0% in the thoroughbred - if it misses a beat at any time in its life
    then forget it - 99% will be beaten by 10 metres (3 lengths) over 1000 metres (5furlongs) and so on.
    LASIX - the superior animal is physically and physiologically SUPERIOR - they handle the stress of racing that little bit better and thus dont tend to bleed.
    Pulmonary congestion - High blood pressure in the lungs is normal in a horse at full gallop. This reverts to normal very quickly when the extreme stress stops.
    GENETICS - there are some bloodlines more predisposed to bleeding - this is a decision for each individual breeder - dont breed to these stallions!! - it is a genetic weakness.
    In other words - dont rely on drugs at any stage - just learn how to optimize the horse environment from pre conception to retirement.
  • So true - don't breed to a horse who has a known genetic weakness in his family tree.
  • carolinarkansascarolinarkansas hot springs, arkansasMember
    if there is a problem in "family tree" don't breed? because the problem is in the tree.. does not necessarily mean that that particular horse has that if there is a problem it would require further testing to determine...that is if the science has identified the gene associated with it.. i would like to see diversity in breeding...that would keep the recessive problems down...close relatives when bred increase the chances of recessive problems cropping up....learned that dramatically as a student nurse in the sixtys....but that is a story for another time
  • AUSIAUSI Member
    Congratulations PLUS to Barry Irwin - its very rare for anyone globally to achieve the total result - purchase sire and dam, breed the horse and manage the racing career successfully.
    The traditional "family" dynasties have done it - the most successful being the Aga Khan family for 100 years - but a first generation operator - WOW - again well done.
    And again very importantly DRUG FREE - this should send a message to breeders globally - no anabolics to young horses and drug free racing - please note!! Breeders Cup chiefs.
    Animal Kingdom will get every opportunity at Stud - Arrowfield in Australia - equal to any in the world and Darley in the US - fantastic mares in both hemispheres.
    Plenty of "outcross" horses to follow - it should be a very exciting next few years.
  • Ausi, sometimes at night (here in California) I bet on Australia races. They are so competitive and fun. Coming down the stretch, many horses have chances to win as the races tend to be close, which is good for longshot bettors.

    The grass racing is a plus also, and I can't recall a horse breaking down yet, maybe just lucky. There's only one USA track that remotely comes close to an Aussi track, that would be Kentucky Downs which does a short grass meet in the fall.

    And yes, congrats to Barry Irwin, one of the good guys in the sport.
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