It’s challenging to get your horse to take their medications! Whether stubborn or suspicious, administering a precise dosage of medicine is important for your horse’s health. After EquidDoc veterinarians leave the farm, here are some tricks for getting your horse to take their medicine!
- Flavors – Many oral medications such as phenylbutazone (bute) and doxycycline (doxy) come flavored (apple, orange, carrot, etc). Occasionally these flavors are enough to disguise the medication in your horse’s feed. When the artificial flavor is not enough, you can top-dress medications with le slices, carrot slices, sugar-free apple sauce, or molasses.
- Grinding Pills – Your veterinarian may dispense large pills which are difficult to disguise due to their size and the quantity that must be given. These pills can be ground down in a coffee grinder or by gently crushing them with a small hammer or mortar and pestle. This will create a powder-like texture that can easily be put in the feed and added flavors as in #1.
- Pill Pockets – Yes, there are pill pockets for horses! These are useful when only one or two pills need to be administered. These can be purchased from tack and feed suppliers, or you can make your own! Try carving out a carrot or apple and placing the pill inside. A piece of banana or small soft horse cookie wrapped around the pill can also serve as a great pocket and tasty treat!
- Dosing Syringe – Dosing syringes come in various sizes & should be in your horse’s health kit. Powder medications can be mixed with a small amount of warm water and drawn up into the dosing syringe. Some pills will dissolve in water and can be placed directly in the syringe after pulling out the plunger. Once the pills are in the syringe, replace the plunger, and draw warm water into the syringe. The pills should sit in the syringe or bowl with warm water until they are fully dissolved. Gentle shaking or mixing can speed the process up.
- Administration –
- Given in Feed: When placing powdered medication onto your horse’s feed, make sure that the powder sticks well to the feed. This can be accomplished by wetting the feed before placing the medication on it. If your horse tends to throw their grain bucket around, it would be ideal to get a bucket that can latch to the wall to make sure the medication is not tossed out. Always check the bucket after to see that no medication was left behind.
- Given with dosing syringe: It is important to make sure medications (powder or pills) are fully dissolved to avoid clogging the syringe tip. The horse should always have a halter and lead on for better control when administering medications. Make sure your horse’s mouth is free of feed. Give the dosing syringe a good shake right before administration. Standing on the horse’s left side, hold the halter with your left hand and the syringe with your right, gently poke at the corner of your horse’s mouth until it opens. Make sure the dosing syringe is far enough in the mouth that they try to chew. This will help initiate a swallow and make sure the medication does not come spilling out. Swiftly give the medication by pushing down on the plunger. For mixtures that are more than 30mls, you should do this process a few times to avoid having it spill out the mouth. After giving the medication, hold your horse’s head up for 5 to 10 seconds to make sure they do not spit it out!
Giving oral medications (especially with a dosing syringe) is tricky and can become frustrating. Patience and persistence will boost your success. Never hesitate to ask your EquidDoc veterinarian for help, whether for a demo on the farm or a phone call for further instruction!