Use At Your Own Risk

You’re at Smiling Sam’s used-car lot with your daughter and Smiling Sam himself says that the car you’re considering was owned by a lady who only drove it to church and the tapping noise is just a loose bolt. Do you believe him’

You buy a horse from a dealer, and in 48 hours the horse is lame from what appears to be an old hock condition. The dealer claims he’s known the horse for years and he’s never been lame or on bute. Do you believe him’

Now, what if the horse you’ve owned since the day she was born founders after being given a vaccine or drug and the company representative tells you there’s no evidence their product could cause laminitis. Do you believe him’

Most people wouldn’t believe the car salesman or the horse dealer but usually are satisfied by what a manufacturer rep tells them. Why’

Image. Something manufacturers spend a lot of money developing. Ads that carry words like caring, trusted, research and world leader make us believe they want to help our horses. What we forget is that, like horse and car dealers, a manufacturer’s primary purpose is to make a profit.

Of course, no reputable company would deliberately sell a bad product, but the fact is animal vaccines and drugs don’t undergo the scrutiny human products do.

If you suspect a drug-related problem and call the manufacturer, the representative will give you the “facts,” such as how many thousands to millions of doses have been sold, with the implication that the product’s safe and popular. He may connect you to the research-and-development department or the company veterinarian. They conclude there’s no scientific evidence to link their product to the problem you had. What they don’t say is that there’s no scientific evidence to prove their product also couldn’t be the cause.

Many adverse reactions occur in horses under special circumstances, such as old age, foals, pregnancy, high stress or illnesses. The bulk of safety testing is performed in healthy, unstressed, adult horses. If young, old or breeding horses are included at all it’s usually in very small numbers.

If you have a special-circumstance horse, you’re using most products, drugs and vaccines at your own risk. If you check with the company first, ask specific questions, such as “Has safety been established in pregnant/ill/old horses’” or “What happens if you give this vaccine to a horse that has already been exposed to the disease’”

However, even if there’s been testing, it may not be definitive.?? In the case of products for animals, regulatory agencies often move more slowly in taking dangerous products off the market than they do when approving them in the first place.

-Eleanor Kellon, VMD

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