Texas A&M Vet Lab Now Offering Equine Pre-Purchase Drug Screening

Dr. Cliff Honnas conducts a lameness evaluation in pre-purchase exam.

To better serve the laboratory’s large equine clientele, the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (TVMDL) in College Station now offers an equine-specific drug screen for pre-purchase exams. Previously, veterinarians screening horses for tranquilizing or pain-relieving drugs when conducting a pre-purchase exam would note the tests needed on the accession form. Now, with one click, the veterinarian can indicate the necessary tests to satisfy a client looking to buy a new horse.

The screen assists the veterinarian conducting the pre-purchase exam by unmasking any drugs hiding the animal’s defects. A variety of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, antipsychotic drugs and antihypertensive drugs can be detected.

Cliff Honnas, DVM, owns Texas Equine Hospital in Bryan, Texas. The clinic treats Western performance, hunter-jumper, dressage and race-bred horses. Dr. Honnas offers every potential buyer the option to conduct a pre-purchase drug screen.

“Part of my pre-purchase exam is to go through the horse-flex, trot and identify whether or not there are any issues that adversely affect performance or use-and then I suggest the buyer do a drug screen to determine whether or not the horse has any drugs on board,” said Dr. Honnas. “A horse could look totally sound when I do the things we do to discern any issues. The problem being if that horse has been administered any drugs, either long-acting tranquilizer drugs to calm it or pain relieving drugs like bute, that horse will look sound. The buyer buys the horse, takes it home and the drugs wear off; all of a sudden, we have a lameness issue. The person with the liability is me, if I don’t offer them a drug screen.”

Dr. Honnas admits that not all owners opt to pay for the drug screen. However, those that choose to run the pre-purchase drug screen benefit from a clear conscience when purchasing.

“If we do a drug screen I suggest waiting until [the results] come back before the sale is finalized,” he said. “Very rarely do we have a positive test. Most sellers are honest about what the horse has had as far as drugs, or hasn’t had, but this is a way to have all the cards on the table.”

TVMDL runs the screen via enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry testing. The cost is $72 for in-state clients and $144 for out-of-state, with a turnaround time averaging one business week. The slight delay and cost are minimal considering the average price of performance horses in today’s equine industry.

For more information on the TVMDL equine pre-purchase drug screen, contact the College Station laboratory at 979.845.3414. Visit tvmdl.tamu.edu for a complete list of test offerings.