January 16, 2018

How to Give Medicine to Your Horse

                Ok, it’s finally happened. You went to the barn this morning and your horse, Sweet Pea, was sick. Or lame. Or hurt. You called your trusty veterinarian who came out and treated Sweet Pea and all will be well in time. He/She then handed you a bag filled with bottles of pills and instructions.  After the vet drove off to their next appointment, you looked miserably at your diminished checking account. Then you looked at your poor distressed horse and was grateful that the vet was able to come so quickly and sort things out. Lastly, you looked in that bag, read the instructions and wondered…12 pills twice a day? Plus, 2 grams of bute?  Exactly how do I get Sweet Pea to eat all those pills? Of course you could buy those cute little pill pockets but that’s a lot of pockets, lots of pills and lots more money.  Surely there must be a better way. There certainly is and it’s easy of you know how. Allow me to enlighten you…

            First you need to understand that the best way to get the medicine into Sweet Pea without wearing it or putting it all into the stall bedding is with an Oral Dose Syringe. Your friendly vet should be able to provide you with one. They look like a normal syringe but are much larger and don’t have a needle. (Think Paste Wormer) Now you just have to figure out how to get the medicine into the syringe and then into the horse. Here’s the best way I have found…

First- Gather all the necessary materials-

    1. Your medicine. 
    2. A mortar and pestle 
    3. Ziplock sandwich bags  
    4. Molasses, pancake syrup, applesauce or jelly.
    5. Water   
    6. An oral dose syringe
    7. Scissors
    8. A small bowl

The procedure-

Step 1. Carefully count out the pills into the mortar. Count twice, just to be sure. Grind the pills into a fine powder using the pestle. Make sure no large pieces remain or they may get stuck and clog up the tip of the syringe. If you are mixing two or more medicines at the same time, be sure to ask the vet if it’s ok. We don’t want any weird chemical reactions happening.

Step 2. Open a ziplock baggie and add your syrup, molasses or whatever you are using to mix the medicine in. Be sure to add the liquid before you add the powder or it will get stuck in the corners of the bag and be difficult to mix. Make sure you have the right amount of liquid. Too much won’t fit in the syringe and too little will make a very thick paste that won’t easily be expelled from the syringe.

Step 3. Add the powder, squeeze out any excess air and close the bag. Now from the outside of the bag, squish it around with your fingers until it is completely mixed. If it is too thick, add water a few drops at a time until you have the right consistency.



Step 4. Squeeze the mixture away from one corner of the bag, preferable a bottom one. Using scissors, cut off that corner of the bag and set the bag aside. In order to make sure the medicine won’t run out while you prepare for the next step, you may want to set it in the bowl with the cut corner sitting up on the side.


    Step 5. Remove the plunger from the syringe. Hold the syringe with the open side up and your finger over the hole at the tip. (I cut the pointy tip off first. The paste will come out easier, clog less and some of it doesn’t get left behind in the syringe. It’s also much easier to clean.) Now, place the cut corner of the bag into the barrel of the syringe. Squeeze out all the medicine into the syringe. Discard the bag where children and pets can’t get to it.

    Step 6. Put the plunger back into the syringe, but only as far as necessary to keep it in place. Invert the syringe and wait until the air bubble rises to the top. Once the air is all the way to the top, SLOWLY remove your finger. Now finish pushing the plunger into place, being careful not to push any of the medicine out. Now it’s time to head out to the barn.

Step 7. Put a halter and lead on your horse. If they won’t stand still, have a helper hold the horse, but don’t tie them. If they object to the procedure and pull back you could be causing all sorts of new problems. Hold the syringe with your right hand and put your left hand on top of the horse’s nose. Put your left thumb into the upper corner of the mouth lifting the lip open and upward. Place the syringe into the mouth and point the tip toward the top of the head. Depress the plunger thus squirting the medicine onto the back of the tongue. If it is a large amount, give one-third or one-half first, then go back with the rest. Give your horse a moment between doses to swallow thus making sure it goes down and not out.

Success! Your horse has been given the medicine. You aren’t wearing any of it and none is splattered all over the stall. Now go back in the house and wash everything associated with this process. You don’t want to risk any cross-contamination of meds to people or pets. Wipe down the counter tops and wash your hands. Put away the pills where children and pets can’t reach them. Put all your supplies away until next time and you’re done! Good luck!

Yes, that’s my husband Steve, cleaning up after me!

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