6 Horse Pills Every Owner Should Keep Nearby


There are more medications and nutritional supplements than ever before for a horse owner to choose from. Here is a look at over the counter horse pills that may or may not need a prescription to buy. Each place that sells pills has their own rules about prescriptions.

Medication prices vary wildly due to unpredictable factors (such as pharmaceutical plant having to shut down). So, the prices mentioned here are not absolute. Consider them as the least one should expect to pay. This is a look at just horse pills (sometimes listed in catalogs or websites as oral medication) and not other types of medication like pastes or liquids.

6 Horse Pills to Always Have for Your Equine

1. Phenylbutazone (Bute)

This is a common non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) given for pain. It’s one of the most widely available NSAIDs painkillers and least expensive.

  • The average cost is a mere 27 cents for each tablet.
  • Bute comes in a variety of formats but pills are usually the least expensive and last a long time if stored in a cool dry place.
  • Always check the directions for dosage. But the average tablet is good for 12 hours of pain relief per 500 pounds the horse weighs.

NSAID horse pills like bute are not allowed for competition or racing horses, depending on the individual event. Only use when the horse is under a veterinarian’s care for pain. Too much use of NSAIDs like bute can cause liver damage.

2. Prednisolone

Prednisone is a common corticosteroid given to many mammal species like people and dogs to help relief the itching and inflammation caused by skin allergies. It also is a common medication for heaves. Unfortunately, horses have a hard time absorbing prednisone horse pills. Fortunately, they can take prednisolone instead.

  • If a horse needs a large dose, then giving intravenous injections are more effective than pills, since a horse needs to take many pills for the medication to be effective.
  • The usual dosage is 0.25 mg per kilogram that the horse weighs.
  • Tablets tend to come in just 20 milligram size. This means the average size horse at 1,000 pounds would need to take anywhere from 5 to 22 horse pills, depending on what a veterinarian recommends.
  • At least the tablets are cheap at about 30 cents each.

3. Diphenhydramine (Brand name Benadryl)

As a general rule, human medications should never be given to horses or ponies. However, diphenhydramine proves the exception to the rule.

  • This over the counter drug is exactly the same as the stuff sold for allergies in people. It helps reduce the pain and swelling that come from any allergic reactions, such as bee stings or insect bites.
  • It is also one of the safest and mildest sedatives to give to horses or ponies.
  • Moreover, it helps horses with motion sickness.
  • The dosage is 2 to 4 milligrams per kilogram that the horse weighs. So a 1,000 pound horse will need to take anywhere from 18 to 36 horse pills if the pill is 50 milligrams.
  • Diphenhydramine comes in a wide variety of sizes.

Although tedious to administer, it is good to have for an emergency or if a horse is known to have a particular allergy.

4. Acepromazine

This is a mild tranquilizer that is sold in liquids, injectable and as horse pills. A horse on acepromazine should never be competed or raced.

  • Horses or ponies that become dangerously frantic during medical exams or getting shoed may benefit from a dose of acepromazine.
  • It is also prescribed often for laminitis.
  • The prices averages 62 cents per tablet. The average size is 25 milligrams.
  • The dose is 0.25 to 1 milligram per kilogram that the horse or pony weighs. This means a 1,000 pound horse needs an average of 1,000 milligrams per dose.

5. Doxycycline Hyclate

This antibiotic is also called doxycycline hydrochloride. It is widely available as horse pills or capsules. There is an injectable, but this if it hits a vein it could kill the horse. The horse pills are generally considered safer for a non-veterinarian to give.

  • This is given for infections caused by bacteria such as Lyme disease, Potomac horse fever and Erlichia infections.
  • They cost about 45 cents per tablet or capsule.
  • The dosage is 10 milligrams per kilogram that the horse or pony weighs. This means that a 1,000 pound horse would need about 45 tablets per dose.

6. Ranitidine (Brand name Zantac)

This is another human medication which can be given to a horse in an emergency if a dose for horses is not available. In people, Zantac is given to prevent heartburn. In horses, it’s given to treat gastric ulcers. Unfortunately, horses are very much prone to gastric ulcers.

  • A horse or pony with an ulcer needs not only ranitidine but to stop using any NSAIDs that could aggravate the ulcer. The animal also needs to be kept away from stressful conditions. This is, of course, easier said than done.
  • Horses or ponies need to be on ranitidine for at least three weeks before any improvement is seen.
  • Horse-sized horse pills are as large as 300 milligrams.
  • This is fortunate since the dosage is 6.6 milligrams per kilogram that the horse weighs. The average cost is 20 cents per tablet.

To the Counter

Giving pills to a horse is more difficult than giving other types of medication. Horses and ponies are very good at spitting out pills. Once upon a time, horse owners had to stick a tube down the horse’s nose or esophagus and blow a pill into the annoyed horse’s throat. Now pills can be ground up and added to a horse’s food.

Some pills are small enough so they can be inserted into a small whole in a carrot. The horse crunches up the carrot, pill and all.

The images are from pixabay.com.

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