February 19, 2013

One way to administer a pill to your livestock is to grind the pill and mix with a food treat (get approval from your vet before doing this), then administer the mixture with a feed-paste tube. Photo by Sue Weaver (
Photo by Sue Weaver
Dad gives Bon Bon a ground pill using a feed paste tube.

Have you ever tried to give your dog or goat or horse a pill? Most of us animals don’t like pills, so I bet it was a job.

There’s an easy way to give your livestock pills: Disguise pills in food. I love marshmallows, so when I take a pill, Mom cuts a little slit in a marshmallow and hides it there. She gives me a plain marshmallow, then the one with the pill, and then another plain one. I gobble them down! She does this with our other animals, too, but uses a pat of butter for the dogs and a chunk of apple for our pig, donkey, steers and horses. The trick is to show us the food, so we know there’s a treat in the offing. Start with a plain treat so we’re eager for more, quickly follow it with the doctored treat, and then finish another plain treat to mask the taste. Easy!

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Some animals are pickier than I am, though, so it’s harder to disguise a pill in handheld treats because they spit it out. If that’s the case, ask your veterinarian if it’s OK to grind your animal’s pills into powder. If the vet approves grinding, find out what precautions you should take. Some pills have to be given whole, and for others, it’s important that humans don’t breathe the dust or handle broken pills with bare hands.

To grind a pill, smash it into tiny pieces by placing it in a sturdy paper envelope and whacking it with something heavy. Mix the dust with something sticky that your animal likes. Mashed, cooked carrots, applesauce, honey, brown sugar mixed with honey, or yogurt are all good choices. Then add the medicated carrier to a small amount of the animal’s regular feed. After he cleans that up, you can give him the rest of his meal.

If the above method doesn’t work, mix the powdered pill with yummy food and give it to him with a syringe. Use a catheter-tip syringe (get one from your veterinarian) or an empty feed-paste tube, and give it like giving paste dewormer. Dad is doing that with Bon Bon in the picture.

Another option is to powder and mix the pill with water laced with powdered Jell-O or Kool-Aid, and give it using a dose syringe. Raise your animal’s head, place the nozzle as far back in his cheek as you can and depress the plunger. Don’t shoot the medication straight down his throat because that could choke him. Hold his nose up until he swallows. Done!

Many different tools are available to help you safely administer pills to your animals, including dose syringes, catheter-tip syringes, balling guns and pet pillers. Photo by Sue Weaver (
Photo by Sue Weaver
Many different tools are available to help you safely administer pills to your animals, including dose syringes, catheter-tip syringes, balling guns and pet pillers.

It’s trickier to give an animal a whole pill. Be very, very careful if you give it by hand. It’s easy for an animal to bite you without meaning to. Also, we goats and sheep have razor-sharp back teeth. If you snag your finger on one, it will bleed. To give a pill to a sheepgoat or even a dog, raise his head and open his mouth with one hand. Quickly reach into his mouth with the other, depositing the pill as far back on his tongue as you can. Then hold his nose up, stroking his throat until he swallows.

It’s better to save your hand and use an implement designed for giving pills. Balling guns are plastic tubes designed to grasp a pill, deliver it to the back of your animal’s throat and release the pill once it’s there. To use one, pull back the plunger, place the pill in the open end, insert the tube into your animal’s mouth all the way to the back of his tongue, then press the plunger. The one in the picture is sized for goats and sheep.

Pet pillers work like balling guns but for smaller pills. They’re made for dogs and cats, but Mom and Dad use one to give pills to us goats and sheep because it’s easier to use than a bigger balling gun.

The best way to give pills is to train your animals to accept favorite treats, like marshmallows! Then you can give us a treat and a pill at the same time. Everyone’s happy. Yum! 

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