Wilson-Welder, J. H., Frank, A. T. 2021. Use of food enrichment for medication delivery in large groups of sheep. Laboratory Animal Science Professional 9(3) (May/June), 40-43.
In a 2018 AALAS webinar on Sheep and Goat Analgesia, Dr. Susie Vogel, a small ruminant expert, introduced the concept of getting sheep and goats to willingly take medication by putting it in a tasty food treat. I had doubts about implementing it in our current research projects. Our sheep were not people-habituated and we already were concerned about the amount of time it took to catch them and administer medications. The idea that we were going to spend even more time coaxing them to eat ‘cookies’ seemed a bit ridiculous. We could not have been more wrong. Thirty-nine sheep, already enrolled in a digital dermatitis study, were used for the food-enrichment medication delivery trial. During the later phase of the experiment when daily pain medication was necessary, 6 animals would voluntarily accept gelcap-stuffed fig bars. After the second to third day of placing the fig bar in their mouths, 35 of 39 animals voluntarily accepted gelcap-stuffed fig bars. With preloaded gelcaps, color-coded dosing and sheep willingly entering the raceway to get their cookies, 39 sheep could be individually medicated by a single person in approximately 30 min. Food treats can be used and be time efficient in large group settings, replacing a lengthy, cumbersome task (daily medication by forced balling gun) with a more pleasant one. Sheep cookies not only improved the animals’ positive wellbeing but also increased caretaker job-satisfaction and positive outlook.