There are many different reasons that your veterinarian may recommend pills for your canine companion. Whether you are giving your pet a pill to prevent or cure a disease, to ease pain, or even to diagnose an illness, one thing is certain; you can’t reason with your dog. While there are some dogs that will take pills right out of their owner’s hands, the vast majority are not quite that obliging, and some dogs are downright uncooperative.
If your dog is one of the vast majority of dogs, picking up the pills from the pharmacy is the easy part of the job, getting your pooch to swallow the pill is the challenging bit. Here are a few ways to help ensure they get the medication that they need by using one of these 4 easy ways to give your dog a pill.
1. Wrap Up the Pill
Dogs often don’t want to take their medication because it doesn’t look or smell appetizing. For many dogs, the simple act of wrapping their pill in a favorite treat, such as cheese, meat, or soft dog treat, is enough of a disguise. If you want to keep your fingers cleaner, you can employ a treat designed for this purpose. Several well-known companies have developed treats with pockets in them designed to help administer their medication.
Other canines may be a little savvier, either turning their nose up at the treat-wrapped pill or eating the treat and spitting out the pill. If your dog is one of these you can try the bait and switch method. First, give them a treat without a pill in it, then give them a treat with the medication, then follow it up with another unadorned treat. Remember to thoroughly wash your hands after handling the pills to avoid having your dog smell it on your hands.
2. Add a Pill to Their Food
This method works best for dogs who consistently gobble down every bite of their food, and is most easily administered using softer foods rather than hard, dried kibble. Use a mortar and pestle or the back of a spoon and crush the pill into a powder, then stir it into the food. A type of food that has a pungent smell is more likely to disguise most pills, but may not work for all types of pills or fool all dogs.
One way to up the ante is to put the powdered pill on a dog-safe food, like eggs, meat, or rice that has been put on a human plate. Dogs tend to be more excited about eating from a human plate and become less cautious, and multiple textures can help to camouflage the powdery texture from the pill. Check with the pharmacist or veterinarian before using this method. Some pills, such as buffered pills and time-release pills, cannot be powdered without affecting their ability to help your canine.
3. Use a Spoonful of “Sugar”
Another way to trick your dog into taking their medication is to add it into a spoonful of something tasty, although using actual sugar isn’t recommended. This particular method is a tricky way to get your hound to take gel caps as well as more traditional pills. Using a spoon works best with slippery foods that encourage your dog to just let the pill slide down their throat, foods like cream cheese, butter, or my favorite, coconut oil.
If it is a pill that isn’t affected by crushing, crunchy peanut butter (not one containing zylitol!) is also a great option to disguise the texture. Occasionally, this method is foiled by the scent of the medications, especially when dealing with strongly scented gel capsule medications. One way that often helps mitigate the smell of pills, particularly pills with a liquid center, is to freeze them before giving them to your pet. Check with your pharmacist or veterinarian before freezing your dog’s pills. While most medications are not affected by cold, there are a few that should not be frozen.
4. Use a Pill Gun
While manually compelling our dog to take a pill may not seem like the most ideal situation, in some cases, it is the only method that can be used. This is a good option for dogs that have allergies, who are particularly picky eaters, for pills that tend to disintegrate, or in situations when the dog is just stubbornly refusing to take the medication any other way. The pill gun is a device that helps pet parents get the pill all the way to the back of their dog’s throat, without having to shove a hand in their canine companion’s open mouth.
These devices are shaped a bit like a large syringe, and they typically have rubber tips to help prevent damage to your dog’s mouth. Dogs have a discernable hump in their tongues. Use the device to push the pill past that hump, then massage your pup’s throat until they swallow the pill. Do not push your dog past their limits when using this method; if your dog is growling, whining, or showing other signs of excessive distress when you are attempting to push the pill into their mouths, stop what you are doing to avoid getting bitten out of fear.
While most dogs will respond to one or more of these methods, some pooches are particularly difficult to administer medicines to. If this is the case for your dog, contact your veterinarian, and explain the situation. Some medications can be compounded, or altered to change their consistency and add flavor to them, making them more enticing for your pet. If compounding the medication isn’t an option, your veterinarian may be able to demonstrate how to most effectively get your dog to swallow a pill, administer the pill themselves, or substitute an injectable alternative.
As a reminder, make sure you go over your pet’s medication – including dosage and schedule – with your pet sitter. We are here to support you in your pup’s health and never charge for medication management. Let us know how your dog takes his pills best, and we will follow your plan while you are away.
What’s the easiest way for you to give your dog a pill? Tell us in the comments below!
Melanie is the owner and founder of Brevard’s premier trusted in-home pet care company. With a Sociology & Criminal Justice degree from the University of Tennessee, in 2016 she took her corporate security background and combined it with her lifelong passion for animals – that’s how Space Coast Pet Services was born! She is certified in Pet First Aid & CPR, bonded, insured, and proudly completed a full background check successfully. She is committed to ongoing training and education for herself and her team. To learn more, click here.
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