What you see. The starting point for addressing any equine health related issue is your observation.


Cannot Give Oral Medications or Pastes

Give Oral Medications


A horse’s refusal to accept oral medication (including deworming pastes) is a highly undesirable behavior that can complicate your and your vet’s ability to provide necessary medicines. The behavior can and should be resolved, for the good of your horse.

Horses are taught to refuse oral medications in the same way that they are taught to engage in many other unwanted behaviors. They perceive this behavior to be easier and more rewarding than alternative (desirable) behaviors.

However, like many evasive habits, this one can be a response to pain. A variety of physical problems may cause a horse to refuse oral medication including mouth injuries. Through examination, your vet can help you determine whether this behavior is a result of physical pain.

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours
    • If you are not able to give prescribed medications as directed by your vet.
  • Code Green

    Contact Your Vet to Obtain Useful Advice & Resources
    • Some vets have valuable advice regarding behavioral and training issues.

your role


What To Do

If a physical cause is ruled out, look to yourself, and others who have handled your horse as both the cause of the problem and the solution.

What Not To Do

Do not believe that this behavior is an inherent characteristic of your horse, it is learned. With proper handling, it can also be corrected.

your vet's role

Your vet may have some suggestions for managing or resolving this problem from a training perspective. Your vet may or may not have an interest in helping your horse overcome this behavior. I personally find it satisfying to retrain horses to calmly and willingly accept veterinary treatments.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • What medications are you trying to give, and why?
  • Did the horse initially reject the medication?
  • Has this problem worsened each time you try to do it?
  • Are you confident with the technique you are using?

Treatments Your Vet May Recommend

A way to resolve the condition or diagnosis. Resolving the underlying cause or treating the signs of disease (symptomatic treatment)

Very Common
more treatments

further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP