Oral Sedatives For Horses

Last Updated on May 13, 2022

Oral sedatives for horses can have many uses and can be a safe option for nervous, high-strung horses in various situations. Using sedatives can make a safer atmosphere for both horses and humans, as nervous horses can accidentally hurt themselves or the people around them. It can be common practice for veterinarians to use oral sedatives to perform exams and treatments on horses.

Before using an oral sedative on your horse you need to understand how they work and the proper dosage. Though they are overall safe to use, there are some side effects that may occur. Oral sedatives can be a great option for needle-phobic horses or owners looking to sedate horses for management procedures.

What Types Of Oral Sedatives For Horses Are There?

There are various types of sedatives that can be used for horses including oral, muscle injection, and intravenous injections. There are two main categories of drugs used for sedation: alpha-2 adrenergic agonists and phenothiazines. Alpha-2 adrenergic agonists require a prescription and are generally given by injection and phenothiazines can be given by injection or orally and require no prescription.

Alpha-2 adrenergic agonists take about five minutes to kick in and will last for around 30-60 minutes. Since they have an analgesic effect they are recommended for procedures that might cause horse pain.

What Types Of Oral Sedatives For Horses Are There

Phenothiazines are not quite as powerful as they do not aid in pain relief. They take around 30 minutes to kick in and can last for up to seven hours before completely wearing off, depending on the type of oral sedative.

The two main oral sedatives for horses include Detomidine and Acepromazine. They can be administered by veterinarians or owners as an appropriate precaution if horses are in a situation where they might become stressed or aggressive.

Detomidine – Oral Sedatives For Horses

Detomidine or Dormosedan Gel is a safe, effective mild standing sedative that can be given orally to horses. It is administered using a syringe in the mouth, under the tongue.

Detomidine should not be given to horses with pre-existing atrioventricular (AV) or sinoatrial (SA) block, cerebrovascular disease, respiratory disease, severe coronary insufficiency or chronic renal failure. It should be administered approximately 45 minutes before the stressful event and will usually last for 90 to 180 minutes.


Acepromazine or ACP is commonly used as a pre-anesthetic or as a mild tranquilizer. It is a mild to moderate sedative that contains no pain-killing properties. It can be given to a horse directly in the mouth via a syringe or be mixed into a small amount of feed.

Acepromazine can take 15-30 minutes to start working and can last for up to seven hours. It should be used in care with stallions as it can cause penile prolapse.

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What You Should Know Before Sedating Horses and What to Expect When Your Horse is Sedated

Before sedating your horse, you should talk it over with your veterinarian to make sure your horse doesn’t have any pre-existing conditions that may affect the use of sedation. In addition, they can help you determine the proper dosage for your horse.

When horses are sedated, they will remain standing up but they will lower their head to the ground. They may become a bit wobbly and lose their balance, but it is very unlikely that they will fall over. Though sedation does calm a horse and get it sleepy, they can still kick so always use precaution when working with sedated horses.

Reasons To Use Oral Sedation On Horses

There are several uses for oral sedation in horses. Both veterinarians and owners can use them for care and maintenance reasons in horses.

Certain Veterinarian Examinations And Treatments

Some veterinarian examinations can be more hands-on and invasive, making horses nervous and reactive. In addition, some treatments need the horse to remain still and calm, like administering eye medication or stitching up wounds. In these situations, oral sedatives can help a horse receive the medical attention they need safely without risking injury to themselves or the veterinarians.

Dental Work

Dental work can be quite loud and invasive, making horses anxious and reactive. Administering an oral sedative allows horses to comfortably and calmly stand as they get dental work done.

Reasons To Use Oral Sedation On Horses - Dental Work

Clipping – Oral Sedatives For Horses

Horses are generally clipped for appearance reasons for horse shows. However, some horses with Cushing’s disease grow thick heavy coats and body clipping can help them better regulate their body temperature. Some horses are very sensitive to the sound and vibration of clippers, so sedating a horse can allow for safer and more efficient clipping.

Farrier Work

The majority of horses will stand just fine for farrier work. However, some horses become nervous and act aggressively when they get work done on their hooves. It becomes very dangerous for both the farrier and horse if the horse begins to act out while getting its hooves trimmed, so sedatives may be used.

Transportation – Oral Sedatives For Horses

Though many horses do just fine with transportation, some become very anxious. With veterinarian approval, sedatives can be a practical option to keep a horse calm and safe while trailering.

Recovery Process

Horses may need some support and extra help when they are recovering from sedatives. Horses may need help holding their heads when standing and holding their tails as they walk.

Horses should not be given access to hay or grain while they are sedative. Horses should be monitored while they recover and be left in a quiet environment if possible. For horses given ACP, they can be given a soaked hay net whilst coming out of sedation.

Using Oral Sedatives For Horses

Oral sedatives can be a safe and effective way to keep your horse safe and calm for various care and maintenance reasons. Sedatives should always be given in proper doses with care.

Do you have any questions regarding oral sedatives for horses? If so, please ask any questions regarding giving sedatives to your horse in the comments.


How Do You Sedate a Horse Orally?

Horses can be sedated orally by using a syringe with the medication given underneath their tongue. Sedatives like ACP can also be given in a small amount of food.

What Sedatives are Used on Horses?

There are two main categories of sedatives used on horses: alpha-2 adrenergic agonists and phenothiazines. For oral sedatives, the main two types are Detomidine and Acepromazine.

How Long Does Oral Acepromazine Last in Horses?

Acepromazine can last for up to seven to eight hours in horses. It is a mild to moderate sedative that can be used as a pre-anesthetic or as a mild tranquilizer.

How Do You Naturally Sedate a Horse?

Natural claiming supplements that contain herbal ingredients, such as chamomile, valerian root and raspberry leaf can help your horse calm down. Though herbal preparations may help calm your horses, they won't be as powerful as sedatives and are not FDA or USEF-approved.