Dexamethasone serum concentrations after intravenous administration in horses during race training

S. McClure, C. Fenger, C. Fenger, B. Brown, G. Maylin, W. Duer, L. Dirikolu, K. Brewer, J. Machin, T. Tobin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Dexamethasone (DXM) sodium phosphate is a widely used corticosteroid for inflammatory conditions in horses, regulated in racing jurisdictions in the USA by a 0.005 ng/ml serum/plasma threshold. This study seeks to describe serum concentrations of DXM at 48 and 72 h after intravenous administration of 20 mg DXM sodium phosphate over 1 to 5 days, and to identify a possible source of DXM overages. 74 horses (39 Thoroughbreds, 13 Standardbreds, 22 Quarter Horses) in active race training received 20 mg DXM sodium phosphate. Serum was collected before injection, at 48 and 72 h post last injection, and analysed by LC/MS-MS (limit of quantification (LOQ) = 2.5 pg/ml). No differences were identified by ANOVA (P≤0.05) for racing breeds, age, gender or the number of days of DXM sodium phosphate administration, so data were pooled for each time point. The DXM serum concentration at 48 h (mean ± standard deviation, range) was 2.18±1.56 pg/ml (&&2.5 to 40 pg/ml). Summary statistics could not be derived for 72 h DXM serum concentration data owing to censored data, but ranged from &2.5 to 95.8 pg/ml. There was one extreme outlier (Tukey) at 48 h, and two extreme outliers at 72 h. A separate study was conducted using sedentary experimental horses to determine the likelihood that positive DXM samples could result from environmental transfer. Urine was collected from a mare 2 to 3 h post administration of 20 mg DXM. Hay with 100 ml of the DXM (17 ng/ml) containing urine was offered to each of six experimental horses and blood was collected at 0, 4, 8, 12, 16, 20 and 24 h. All six horses had plasma DXM concentration above the limit of detection and five of six had plasma DXM concentrations above the LOQ for at least one sample time.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)263-272
Number of pages10
JournalComparative Exercise Physiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Wageningen Academic Publishers


  • dexamethasone
  • horse
  • racing
  • regulatory thresholds

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Biochemistry
  • Physiology
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Veterinary (miscellaneous)
  • Physiology (medical)


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