Monday, July 23, 2012

Medication Meanderings

How to Get A Horse to Take a Pill

Pergolide is apparently very bitter tasting. So, the problem is, how do you get a smart, sensitive horse to take his daily dosage?

Toby is not a good eater to start off with. He will stop eating if he's upset or if I put a supplement in his feed and he decides it "tastes different."  He is not what I call a "stomach horse,"  meaning that food and treats are not a great motivator. If he's decided he doesn't want to be caught in the paddock, a treat will not lure him in.

So, how do I assure that he gets his daily half tablet of Pergolide? Please note, the pills are very small. A half tab is perhaps a 1/16" long and half as wide.

Suggestion number one, from a friend who has a horse on her property on Pergolide, is to stuff the pill in a mini marshmallow. All well and good provided the horse in question likes mini marshmallows.  Toby is not so sure. I lured him into complacency with three minis, unspiked, and then gave him the mini with the pill. He ate it, but that was that. He refused the next offering of "untainted" mallows and hasn't offered to eat once since.

Scratch off the marshmallow alternative. On to the bananas. This was my vet's recommendation.  I'm a little leery of this one too. I gave Toby a sample slice of banana, and he wasn't too thrilled. I still have several bananas left, so I will try again to see if he will begin to like them more, but until then, I'm not going to stuff a pill in one to see if he will eat it or spit it out.

I have, for the time being, resorted to the old tried and true method of applesauce and a dose syringe.  Melt the tablet in the applesauce, spoon it into a syringe and give it as you would a paste wormer.  Bit of a mess and a little worry that perhaps all the medication is not getting into the horse as it's spread throughout a couple teaspoonfuls of applesauce. But, I decided to put the dissolved pill in a little applesauce in the syringe first followed by more applesauce to push the medicated stuff into his mouth first. It works, but isn't exactly the most efficient method when you consider I will have to do it 365 days a year.

Some other suggestions have been to stuff the pill in a chunk of apple, but I have to wonder.

And, my friend said that all the methods she tried worked for a while, but eventually the horse caught on and stopped accepting the various treats she offered.

Surely there is an easier answer somewhere, but for now, the jar of applesauce, the syringe, the pill, Toby, and I will be companions.

Some friendship, huh?


  1. The applesauce trick sounds like it could become tiresome. We use a horse treat called Stud Muffins. They are a great size for stuffing pills in and they are soft enough to hide a pill in. Our horses love them and get them after a ride as a reward. They smell great and must taste great, I've never had a problem getting them to take one. You can find them online or your tack shop may carry them. We got our local Agway to order them. They're a little pricey but I think it might be worth a try. I'm sure if Toby doesn't like them the other horses will. Good luck.

  2. Anonymous11:07 AM

    Order some cocosoya oil and give him a drizzle of that with his pill and feed - works like a charm - there's a very picky mare at our old barn who's on a higher than normal pergolide dose and she eats it readily with the addition of a small amount of that oil - very tasty stuff. Also, wetting the feed with the pergolide in it also works - Lily down at Paradigm is notoriously picky but eats her medicine with her soaked feed without a problem.

  3. Anonymous11:31 AM

    Here's a much easier solution -- have your vet prescribe via SmartPak for a "suspension" formulation (this may be available from other pharmacies). Since you interact with your horses daily, you can easily dispense the tiny amount of liquid per dose directly into his mouth ... absolute certainty and control!

    (SmartPak supplies a dispensing oral syringe and rubber "plug" for the bottle to make it very simple.)

    Just FYI, this is from the same anonymous as the post with the video series. BTW, my name is Heather. I have an elderly Cushings horse who is doing fabulously! He's a very picky eater, other than the suspension, we had some modest luck with Pergolide in beet pulp.

    Good luck

  4. Anonymous12:39 PM

    Just an added thought. You might want to start with the suspension Pergolide to "get things going."

    Once you have the situation managed, you could look at trying various dosage methodologies with the pills (giving the suspension that day if a new variation is rejected).

    You may eventually find something that works and could move to it permanently, but in the interim you would be CERTAIN Toby was getting his Pergolide!


  5. Lots of good ideas so far. I would agree that cocosoya oil could help to pill in the feed.

    If you go the hide in an apple route - try loading the apple slice with a disposable glove on.

    My cushings dog has sniffed her meds out in every type of bribe, until I loaded the bribe wearing a glove. Apparently then the smell germs didn't get off my hand and onto the outside of bribe food.

    Good luck!

  6. As soon as he tastes the bitter pill he won't eat any of the "tainted treats". Would blackstrap molasses work? It has such a strong taste. It's sugar though, which I am sure is not very good for him.