Tricks for giving medicine to laminitic and foundered horses

December 19, 2011

Hollow out the end of a carrot with a steak knife to hide your horse's medicine. Yes, that is a Shell steak knife from the 1970s.

Hollow out the end of a carrot with a steak knife to hide your horse’s medicine. Yes, that is a Shell steak knife from the 1970s.

Over 15 years of treating six horses with laminitis, I’ve had to come up with many weird and wonderful ways to give medicine and supplements.

Success often hinges on how bad the medicine or supplement tastes, and some medicines are harder to mask than others.

For example, I gave the supplement LaminaSaver, which is mostly jiaogulan, to Angel on and off for two years to try to stimulate circulation in her feet during the winter. The last few years, winter was really hard on her, and her mobility dropped off with the temperature. But, I gave her this supplement with mixed feelings. Have you ever tasted LaminaSaver? It’s terrible, in my opinion. And the taste stays with you for hours no matter how you try to get rid of it.

I gave it to Angel by buying a juicer, juicing carrots and mixing the powder in with the carrot juice, then squirting the mixture in her mouth with a syringe. The powder tasted better, but it still wasn’t great; at least there was no horrible aftertaste. But, I never was comfortable making her take something that tasted that bad. And the cleanup after each dose was tremendous.

I started giving the horses Quiessence either by hand or in their feed several years ago and kept that up until October 2011; the magnesium was supposed to help control insulin resistance in laminitic horses. Quiessence is made with alfalfa, so the horses always wolfed that down. I never tasted it myself. In fact, I usually only taste things when the horses refuse to eat them. I always wondered about the wisdom of giving them alfalfa, but at least I didn’t have to do much work on that one.

For some medicine, such as bute, it seems better to just get it down without the horse tasting it.

I used to get the apple-flavored powder bute and never had a problem with the horses cleaning it up in their feed. But, I was trying to feed as little as possible, and you need a certain amount of feed to cover it, especially if you’re also mixing in thyroid powder, which I’ve been doing for a long time.

I changed vets and suddenly only had the option of the orange-flavored bute powder. None of my horses would touch it. After getting through one tub by putting the powder in a syringe and squirting into the horses’ mouths (not so easy in the winter when my fingers aren’t working), I changed to bute boluses.

They weren’t orange flavored or scented, and they were cheaper. I didn’t really have a plan how to give them when they arrived. I was thinking about crushing them and given them through a syringe in the same fashion, but I stumbled upon a new trick as I was trying to figure it out.

I took a steak knife and hollowed out the end of a piece of carrot and placed half a bolus of bute inside, and each horse ate his bute as if it wasn’t there.

For a whole gram, I stuck with the half gram-per-carrot ratio and just used two carrot pieces.

This process has worked well for other pills, such as antibiotics.

The only two supplements I’m using now are the Heiro to lower their insulin levels and thyroid powder. As long as there is some feed to cover the thyroid powder, the horses just eat it. I don’t think it has a taste.

The Heiro supplement is chock full of cinnamon. When you open the jar, the whole room smells like cinnamon. The instructions provide ways to make it more palatable for horses, but my horses didn’t have a bad initial reaction. That first day, I held my breath as I put the buckets down, because I was thinking, “This is our only hope to stop this latest bout of laminitis; please don’t let this be a feeding nightmare.” I based that feeling on the fact that we had tried everything else and nothing had stopped bouts of laminitis in progress, and this product was designed to lower insulin levels in laminitic horses, which is what my horses needed. If I could get the supplement in them, I thought it would work.

The horses at first chewed their feed over and over with puzzled looks on their faces because they had never tasted anything like it, but now they pounce on their breakfast, which is when they get the Heiro, and lick their buckets clean. Big relief.

My plea to anyone thinking of making drugs or supplements for laminitic horses in the future is: Please make them taste good or make them in bolus form. Don’t ask my horses to eat anything you wouldn’t want to eat yourself.




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