The vet has diagnosed the problem and has left you with pills and a set of instructions regarding when to give what. In a perfect world, you could pop the pills in your horse’s mouth and he’d take a gulp of water and swallow them down! Unfortunately, that dream scenario will never come true. But, with a little persistence and creativity on your end anything is possible (including giving a 1,200lb animal pills he most certainly will not voluntarily eat)! Here are some tips and tricks to make giving medication easy peasy.
Tip #1: Give oral medications BEFORE your horse has eaten or is fed.
If your horse has a mouthful of food while you give oral medication, the medication will stick to the food instead of the horse’s mouth. Your horse will be able to easily spit out some of all of the medication given and it is hard to measure a redose to compensate for the amount that is now on the ground. Instead, be sure their mouth is free from food so that the medication sticks to the inside of their mouth and is harder to spit out and deposit the medicine as far back on the tongue as possible and hold your horse’s head up until he swallows.
Tip #2: If you need to feed a pill, mix it with something tasty.
If the pill is small, you can try inserting it into a carrot or apple and offer it to your horse this way. However, given their sensitive sense of smell and taste, this method may not be effective for future doses or horses who needs to be on medication long-term. Another option is to crush the pill using a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder. Thoroughly mix the crushed pill with with your horse’s favorite feed or treat. Be sure to add a splash of water so that the powder sticks to the feed and doesn’t simply fall to the bottom of the feeder. If you have an extra finicky horse who has refused the medicated treat or feed a final option is to crush the pill, mix it with yoghurt or applesauce, put the mixture into a syringe and gently squirt it into the back of your horse's mouth.
Tip #3: If your horse has caught on, offer him a syringe without meds frequently.
If your horse has become fed up with being given syringes full of meds and has become difficult to medicate, try offering him a syringe of only the tasty stuff in between the syringes that contain medication. This way he won’t always associate a syringe with something he doesn’t like and as a result he may become easier to medicate.
Tip #4: Ask for help.
Some tasks are just easier with an extra hand. If you are having a hard time getting your horse to accept a syringe of medicine, it may be wise to ask for an extra hand. If your horse learns that by struggling, tossing his head, or being evasive is rewarded by you not giving the medication, the problem will only get worse. Do not be afraid to ask for help. Eventually your horse will learn that struggling will get him no where and the quicker he accepts the medication, the quicker he can go on with his day.
All in all, giving oral medication isn’t fun or easy, especially if you have a finicky horse. The above tips may offer some guidance but the true key to success is perseverance, patience and more often times than not, a lot of creativity! Keep at it and your best friend will be feeling better in no time!