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7 Over-the-Counter Meds You Can Give Your Horse

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A few months ago, during a trail ride, my horse began showing signs of stifle pain. A companion rider offered me Tylenol for my horse. I had never given horses Tylenol, which made me wonder, what over-the-counter meds are safe for horses?

Ibuprofen, Tylenol, aspirin, Benadryl, celecoxib, Chloroxylenol, and Ivermectin are some of the over-the-counter meds you can give your horse. In addition to these helpful medications, there are also calming supplements and medicated salves you can buy without a veterinarian’s prescription.

A vet should oversee the chronic use of any medication. Some over-the-counter (OTC) meds can cause serious side effects if your horse suffers from a particular illness or is given a high dosage. Let’s learn more about what kind of meds are best for emergencies and what precautions you need to take.

Picture of a young thoroughbred horse in training.

What can I give my horse for pain relief?

Whenever one of my horses shows signs of pain or discomfort, my priority is to get them to a vet. However, sometimes a vet is not easily accessible, so it’s best to familiarize yourself with medicines that can provide pain relief for your horse.

There are many non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) that you can use for pain relief in horses. However, it’s essential to know if your horse is susceptible to illnesses such as renal disease or dehydration before selecting this type of treatment option.

The responsible use of NSAIDs is effective in treating colic, sepsis-related problems, and general fever. Different types of NSAIDs are used to treat pains depending on the intensity and cause. For this reason, and because long-term usage can cause toxicity, it is crucial to consider the overuse of NSAIDs.

NSAIDs inhibit the function of pain-causing enzymes in a horse’s body: COX-1, COX-2, and COX-3. NSAIDs work in a variety of ways to decrease inflammation. Different NSAIDs have different effects on the horse, but most reduce tissue damage and provide an overall reduction in your animal’s pain levels.

Some of the most common NSAIDs that come in handy for pain relief are flunixin, Bute, naproxen, Equioxx, and meloxicam. The exact amount of dosage varies widely with the individual horse, depending on how potent the drug is and how sensitive your horse is to gastrointestinal diseases like diarrhea.

And while most horse owners use intravenous routes for administration, certain medications are available in paste form. They can be administered orally by putting a small amount into your horse’s mouth and making sure it swallows.

Generally, flunixin or Equioxx is used for treating laminitis or intestinal disorders. Bute (phenylbutazone) is commonly used for treating lameness or muscle-related pain in horses. However, Bute is also more toxic, so you should avoid giving your horse large doses. Meloxicam is typically recommended for osteoarthritis and tendon deformities.

Picture of over-the-counter pills spilling out of a medicine bottle,

You can use Zimecterin or ivermectin to control parasites like pinworms, stomach worms, and hairworms that can cause circulatory, respiratory, or intestinal burdens. They are also good for treating summer sores. A 6 grams dose of about 1.7% of ivermectin solution is sufficient to treat horses weighing 1,200 lbs.

Benadryl is a suitable over-the-counter medication if your horse has developed hives or an allergic condition like heaves (respiratory inflammation). Though it is not officially approved for horses, I usually keep about 15 – 20 tablets with me at all times. Around 8 pills (25 mg each) are enough for most horses. If the symptoms don’t ease off in a few hours and you can’t call a vet, it’s safe to administer up to 5 more pills.

One major side effect of too much Benadryl is drowsiness. And you shouldn’t give it to horses that are allergic to antihistamines or are on CNS depressants like barbiturates.

Another over-the-counter drug that inhibits COX-2 is celecoxib. It’s been shown to be efficient in treating lameness and synovitis in horses. COX-2 inhibitors generally aren’t as likely to cause gastrointestinal problems, though more research is needed.

In general, you should consult a vet before giving over-the-counter drugs to pregnant or nursing horses. It would be best to consider the time medication would take to be eliminated from the body, as drugs in the blood can interfere with other medical treatments and might violate racing rules. And horses already on medication should avoid NSAIDs without the advice of a vet.

I always keep a handful of over-the-counter drug pills in the medical kit at home and in my horse trailer.

NSAIDs should never be a long-term solution for your horse’s chronic pain, and it is only to be used for acute conditions. Furthermore, our vet recommends that we don’t give NSAIDs to horses for longer than five or six days at most!

As pain may indicate an underlying long-term condition, you should see your vet as soon as you can. In many cases, the vet will diagnose and prescribe limited dosages of specific, non-potent NSAIDs to your horse if it has a chronic illness.

Another crucial rule is to never give more than one NSAID to your horse at a single time. The side effects caused by mixing medication can be dangerous and unpredictable. Drugs of any kind are generally designed to be administered in a calculated amount.

Improper injection of NSAIDs, excessive dosage, prolonged use, or administration of multiple NSAIDs can cause toxicity in your horse’s gut, kidney problems, ulcers, colitis, and protein loss.

After giving NSAIDs to my horses, I’ve learned to look out for any alarming symptoms like weight loss, dehydration, damaged coat, increased urination, loose droppings, mood change, poor appetite, excess saliva, and typical signs of ulcers.

In competitive sports, the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) Equine Drugs and Medications Rule allows a horse to be administered with a single NSAID at a time. However, some sports events don’t allow horses to compete if any NSAIDs are detected in their blood.

Picture of my horse grazing.

Can you give horse ibuprofen?

Ibuprofen is one of my go-to painkillers whenever I need to get rid of acute pain. So, it got me wondering if the use of ibuprofen will also benefit my horses in case of emergencies.

Ibuprofen is an NSAID for horses and has not been approved by the USEF. However, small amounts of ibuprofen are generally safe for horses and can alleviate muscle soreness. Large doses of ibuprofen are harmful and can create complications related to the GI tract.

There aren’t much statistical data available regarding the use of ibuprofen in horses, so there’s definitely a risk factor involved. Anecdotally speaking, ibuprofen is readily available, and people often choose to rely on it during emergencies when there’s no vet at hand.

How much Tylenol can I give my horse?

I have heard a lot of praise for Tylenol from friends who have given it to their horses. I know that Tylenol isn’t an NSAID, so naturally, I became interested in how it compares with equine anti-inflammatory drugs and how much Tylenol is considered safe for my horse.

It would be best if you didn’t give more than 9mg of Tylenol per pound of bodyweight to your horse. Tylenol is recognized for its ability to treat lameness and relieve minor pains. It’s also proven to help with laminitis without the dangerous side effects of NSAIDs.

Don’t give your horse NSAIDs if it has a history of kidney problems, ulcers, or colitis, as improper administration of these over-the-counter meds can cause all sorts of horse diseases. Tylenol, however, has only a comparatively low risk of liver-related diseases even when given in high amounts.

Signs of liver damage in horses are pretty difficult to notice until it’s too late. However, it would be best if you kept an eye out for subtle symptoms like weight loss, change in appetite, jaundice (yellowish tinge to the skin, gums, and whites of the eyes), and typical signs of depression.

Picture of a sorrel horse with a flaxen mane.

Can you give aspirin to a horse?

I recently noticed a friend of mine casually adding aspirin powder to his horse’s diet. Though aspirin is technically an NSAID, is it worthwhile or even safe to give to your horses?

Aspirin is effective in relieving pain and preventing fever in horses. It mainly helps treat conditions where blood clots are formed in the veins, such as laminitis and ischemia, and alleviate pain in the joints and muscles.

A small dose (5 mg/lb/day) of aspirin mixed in your horse’s diet (with some sweet grain to dilute the taste) is relatively harmless. It’s often given twice a day as its effects wear off quickly. However, as with all NSAIDs, prolonged use can cause various harmful conditions, with gastric ulcers most frequently reported.

If you have surgery planned for your horse, you should keep away from aspirin two weeks before the surgery; the reason is that aspirin makes the blood thin and causes abnormal bleeding. As the USEF or FDA does not verify aspirin for horses, it’s best only to use it if you run out of other, more reliable pain relievers.

7 Over-the-counter drugs you can give your horse.

  • Ibuprofen
  • Tylenol
  • Aspirin
  • Benadryl
  • Celecoxib
  • Chloroxylenol
  • Ivermectin

If you decide to give your horse oral medicine, here is a video that provides some helpful tips:


Over-the-counter drugs can save your horse a lot of discomfort in case a vet is not available. However, they can have complex side effects and are unpredictable, so you should keep their dosage and treatment period should be kept at a minimum. And on your next vet visit, you should fill them in with what you have given your horse and any following symptoms you might have noticed.

Below is a YouTube video that demonstrates an easy way to give your horse oral medicine.


Which drug is commonly used to sedate horses?

The use of sedative drugs such as Xylazine (Rompun), Detomidine (Dormosedan), or Romifidin(SediVet)) are the most commonly used by veterinarians during equine procedures.

What drugs are used to put a horse down?

A barbiturate, typically pentobarbital, is used to euthanize horses. Horses that are not able to be rehabilitated after suffering an injury or sickness are typically given will be a lethal injection of this drug by a vet.