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Posted on 08-08-2017

How to give a pill to your Dog

By Ashley - Assistant, Bellalago Veterinary Hospital

This past month my dog had to take an oral antibiotic so I decided to write my next blog post on how I came up with a way to medicate my feisty Yorkie! At our clinic we have many clients who are uneasy with giving oral medications to their pet because they can be quite difficult. Trust me, I know! Luckily over the past few years my dog has not needed to be on medication (other than his heartworm and flea prevention) but he was not happy, at first, when he had to take his antibiotic. When I placed the capsule inside a piece of food he spit it out and when I just placed it in his mouth he spit it out, again! I became frustrated but knew that he needed his medication so I was going to find a way to get him to take his medication. Hopefully you will find this blog helpful and come up with a technique that works best for your pet!

First, I just want to mention that some pets are easier than others. There are those pets who don’t have any trouble taking medication when it is hidden in their food or a treat. I have even seen some patients take pills, by themselves, as if they were treats! If your pet does not take the pill in their own wet food sometimes Doctor Young will recommend certain foods that owners can hid the pills in. Some examples are:

(These foods vary depending on the animal.  Please ask your veterinarian if your pet has any medical conditions or allergies which could be aggravated by certain foods.)

  • Flavor-Doh (available at the hospital)
  • Pet pill pockets (Dog version, Cat version)
  • No-sugar-added applesauce
  • Turkey dogs or braunschweiger (a type of sausage)
  • Vanilla Greek Yogurt (low fat)
  • Plain mini marshmallows

If hiding medication in food does not work for your pet well then maybe you can try medicating them yourself. I know many people have never tried this or have had difficulty placing medication in their pet’s mouth but the following is something you can try and it might not be as stressful as you think! I have a book called Low Stress: Handling, Restraint and Behavior Modifications of Dogs & Cats by Dr. Sophia Yin and it is an excellent book on different handling techniques for pets. I decided to apply Dr. Yin’s technique when medicating my dog since he wouldn’t take his medication in his food and wasn’t happy at first when I placed the pill in his mouth. I used my Yorkie’s small bite sized treats and the process went something like this:

  1. I held a treat in one hand and placed it in front of my Yorkie’s mouth while I grasped the top of his muzzle with my other hand.
  2. As he went to reach for it I would gently push the treat into his mouth so that there was barely any effort on his part. (Each time you’ll need to gently open his mouth ever so slightly.)
  3. As he was finishing one treat I instantly placed another treat in front of his mouth and repeated this about three times.
  4. Once he finished his last treat I opened his mouth and quickly placed the capsule in (since he was just expecting another treat) and closed his mouth right away.
  5. I blew on his nose, rubbed his throat and gave him a small amount of water, with a syringe, and waited for him to swallow.
  6. Once he swallowed, I let go of his mouth and checked to see if he actually took his medication and, well, he did each time!
  7. I also would give him one extra treat afterwards so my technique ended on a good note!

Each day became easier to medicate my dog since I had a routine that worked for him! Treats were involved so he was not too worried about me medicating him. Giving water after medicating is not mandatory but I figured it was one extra step to make sure my dog swallowed his medicine. There is also something called a pet piller and it definitely comes in handy to those pets who are a little extra feisty with medicating.

Again, not all pets are the same and you may find a different way to medicate your pet rather than my way. My dog just so happens to know when a pill is hidden in something, no matter what food it is! I know this blog was mainly towards dog owners but Dr. Sophia Yin has a technique for cat owners as well. I will have links for both the cat and dog techniques! If you are ever having trouble medicating your pet, whether it is a liquid or a pill, please feel free to call our clinic for advice! Don’t feel discouraged either because sometimes we may even have trouble giving our own pets medicine. Just like me, you’ll eventually learn what method works for your pet, and you won’t feel as stressed the next time your pet needs medication!

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