Just a Spoonful of Cat Food?

Some of you have met my little Killian in past blog entries or on his Facebook page. One thing I don’t talk a lot about with Killian is how incredibly difficult he can be to medicate.  Now, I am not new to medicating dogs. I have even been hired by clients to come over and give medication to difficult dogs.  But Killian is a master at avoiding his pills.

Killian in his wheels

When I first got Killian I actually took him to the vet every day so they could give him his meds.  Killian is not just paraplegic. He also suffers from epilepsy and chronic hepatitis. He takes a lot of medication to keep him going.

Killian is a small dog, so one would expect that, at the very least, I could force the pills down him. And I have. But Killian has learned how to cheek them or keep them just in the top of his throat where I cannot see them.  As soon as I turn my back on him, ptooey! And he has some range – on occasion over six feet. The pill ends up across the room, and I am on my knees trying to locate it. Because not only are his pills varied for each condition, some of them are also extremely expensive.

So I feel your pain if you have a dog that is difficult to pill. Here are the options I have used over the years.  Not all work with all dogs, but I find that usually one of them does work.

  1. Wrapping the pill in something yummy is usually sufficient for most dogs. American cheese works well if you don’t want to purchase pill pockets. Or a small piece of bread can work in a pinch.
  2. Peanut butter is an experience all its’ own when pilling dogs.  Some dogs it works well.  They cannot help but smack their lips and lick and swallow the delicious gooey mess.
  3. Force is my least favorite way to pill a dog, but in life or death situations it may be necessary. I always feel terrible opening a dogs mouth by force.  But if you need to do it, the easiest way is to place your hand over your dog’s muzzle with the thumb on one side and your index finger on the other.  Find the gap in the teeth (about half way back) and press in. You will find you can gently pull the mouth open. Place the pill as far back in the mouth as you can (using a pill syringe can make this easier) and close the dog’s mouth, holding the head in a normal position (parallel to the ground). Sometimes rubbing the throat will help the dog swallow. Gently hold the muzzle closed long enough that the dog swallows the pill.
  4. Depending on the pill you may be able to crush it (or open a capsule) into something tasty.  Always ask your vet before you do this as some medicines are made to dissolve slowly, and this will release all the medication at once.  Your vet may also know just how strong the flavor is on the pills. Killian’s vet and I have worked to find pills that I can do this with. I use a little yogurt or kefir.

Yeah, I know.  If you are reading this you have probably tried all of this.  I certainly tried and failed with all of these methods with Killian. A few tweaks can turn these failures into success. Here are the tweaks!

  1. When wrapping the pills in choice one above, also make several small balls of cheese or whatever you are using that are identical to the one that houses the pill.  Throw these on the floor one at a time and let your dog gobble them up.  Usually by the second or third your dog is no longer taking the time to taste or chew. At this point, throw the “meatball” with the pill in it. Chances are your dog will gobble it up! I have yet to encounter a dog that cannot be fooled this way.
  2. If you have a bunch of pills to give and the meatball method is too much “junk food”  consider adding a “chaser” once you have the pill in your dog’s mouth. I have used either moist treats or a syringe with chicken broth in it.  Pill goes in, and is immediately followed by the chaser.  The dog is forced to swallow the pill so he doesn’t have to spit out the chaser.

Chances are one of the above methods will work at getting your dog’s pill down him.  You might also consult your vet to see if there is a palatable liquid version of the medication.  We have done this with Killian’s epilepsy medicine, and it has been much easier on both of us.

Do you have any creative ways you have found to get pills down your dog?  Please post them in the comments below!

 

About Dawn Gardner, CPDT-KA

I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers, a professional member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT), an administrator of the Modern Dog Group, and a member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG). I am also a freelance writer for dog related publications. I have been training dogs since 1997, promoting force-free, science based training methods, instructing group classes and providing private in-home dog training. I have worked extensively with dogs with behavioral issues, including those suffering from anxiety, aggression and other stress related disorders. I have dedicates much of my free time to rehabilitating and re-homing shelter dogs with a variety of rescue organizations. As part of my passion for advocating science based dog training methods, I have had the privilege to lecture at Virginia Tech’s School of Veterinary Medicine. In 2014 I returned to Arkansas after 12 years in rural North Carolina, where Happy Hound Pet Services began in 2007. I live in Rudy, Arkansas, with my nine dogs and occasional foster dogs.
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