Your veterinarian prescribes a few days of bute for your older, very picky horse. As much as you know this will help with their arthritis, your first thought is, “how am I going to get them to take this?” Your horse has years of experience picking around pills and powder in their grain bucket and is the master of avoiding the oral syringe. We know how frustrating this is and created some tips for making medication administration easier.
Many oral medications, including bute and doxy, come in different flavors. Sometimes these flavors are enough to mask the medication’s smell and taste. If that is not enough, try mixing the drug with something sticky, like molasses, or dissolve it in sugar-free apple sauce.
Grind Up Pills
Large pills are easy for your horse to pick around and avoid in their grain bucket. Grinding the medications into a powder with a coffee grinder or a mortar and pestle can make it easier to put in feed or add another flavor.
If you have a dog, you’ve likely seen the pill treats created to give pills and capsules to dogs in a “treat” form. Well, pill dimples are made just for horses! The Dimples® Horse Treats can be folded around several pills, and your horse will think they are getting a tasty treat! You can also use a piece of banana in a pinch and smush it around the pill.
Powdered medications can be mixed with a small amount of warm water and administered with an oral dosing syringe. Oral syringes are a good option if your horse avoids pills or powder in the grain. However, some horses get wise to these quickly! Try starting and ending the process with their favorite treat to make it a positive experience.
Helpful Tips for Administering Medication
There are two basic ways to administer oral medication; in feed or with an oral dosing syringe. Here are a few things to keep in mind for both methods:
Adding to Feed
When adding powdered medication to feed, make sure it sticks to the grain and doesn’t fall to the bottom of the bucket. Either wet the grain slightly before adding the medication or mix it with molasses or applesauce. If your horse likes to throw their grain bucket around while eating, make sure the bucket is secured to the wall to prevent the medication from falling on the ground. Always check the bucket after your horse is done for leftover medication.
Ensure the powder or pills are fully dissolved in warm water before administering them. Halter your horse, remove any feed from its mouth, and place the syringe into the corner of the horse’s mouth. Make sure the syringe is far enough in the mouth that they try to chew it. This helps initiate swallowing when you give them the medication. After giving the medication, hold the horse’s head up for a few seconds to ensure they don’t spit it out.