Next to expressing their anal glands, having to give dogs medication is probably one of the least-loved aspects of pet ownership. But you can put aside your fears of losing a finger or two, or poor Fido choking on a pill the size of a blimp. These tips will help make this challenging job easier.
When your veterinarian gives you a prescription, you should ask if it is available in a chewable form, which will make things much less stressful for both you and your pooch. If it isn’t, ask your vet to demonstrate how to administer the pill or liquid. Veterinarian Janet Tobiassen-Crosby recommends that you also ask your vet if the pill can be given with food, if there are any restrictions on the types of food with which it can be given, and if the pill can be cut or crushed (some must be left whole).
If the pill can be taken with food, you can try one of the following methods.
Hide the Pill in a Pill Pocket
When i Love Dogs writer Laura Goldman’s senior dog Sophie was on a daily regimen of several medications, pill pockets were a godsend. Sophie was extremely finicky about eating most other food, but would happily wolf down her meds tucked inside the chicken- or liver-flavored wraps.
You simply tuck a pill inside the hole in the rubbery, slightly greasy wrap, press it shut and voilà! Your dog will think it’s a treat. The pockets come in small and large sizes to fit various tablets and capsules, and can even hold liquid medicine. When this week’s HOW TO topic was announced on Twitter, one of our followers responded, “2 words on How to Give your dog medication: Pill Pockets!!! They are the best.”
Hide the Pill in Tasty Food
A popular method of administering meds to your unsuspecting pooch is to hide the pill in a bit of tasty food, such as cottage cheese, cream cheese, butter, peanut butter or liverwurst. Unfortunately, even if your dog isn’t a brainiac Poodle, if she tastes the bitterness of the pill beneath the yumminess of the food treat, you’ll probably have a hard time bamboozling her again.
If All Else Fails, Down the Hatch
If the other methods aren’t working out or the pill can’t be taken with food, you’ll have to go the hands-on route and put the pill in your dog’s mouth. Although this will probably be stressful for you and your dog, if you try to remain calm and relaxed, the process will go much more smoothly.
The Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine and pet education recommend that you take the following steps when giving your dog a pill:
1. Have the pill out of the bottle and ready to give to your dog.
2. Using a happy, carefree voice, call your dog over to you.
3. Put your dog’s rear end against something so she can’t back away from you. You may have better control if you can put your dog on a table or other surface above the floor. (Make sure you have someone helping you if you do this so your dog doesn’t jump off and injure herself. Your helper should hold your dog around the shoulders and chest.)
4. Hold the pill between your thumb and the index finger of your right hand (assuming you are right-handed).
5. With your left hand, gently grasp your dog’s muzzle, with your thumb on one side and fingers on the other.
6. Squeeze behind your dog’s upper canine teeth (her long, front “fangs”) and tilt her head back so she is looking at the ceiling. Although it’s not necessary, you might want to gently fold her upper lip over her teeth as you open her mouth, so if she bites, she’ll bite her lip and not your fingers.
7. Your dog’s lower jaw will automatically drop a bit. Place the middle finger of your right hand on the small teeth between your dog’s lower canine teeth (don’t put your finger on a fang!) and gently push down to further lower her bottom jaw.
8. Quickly place the pill as far back in your dog’s mouth as possible, getting it past the “hump” of her tongue. If you don’t place the pill far enough back, your dog will probably spit it out. However, be careful not to place your hand too far in her mouth, or your dog may gag.
9. Close your dog’s mouth, hold it closed, and lower her head to a normal position, which will make swallowing easier. Gently stroke her throat or blow on her nose to help stimulate her to swallow.
When your dog swallows the pill, give her plenty of praise, and possibly a treat. This will make it easier the next time. Be sure to watch your dog for a few minutes to make sure she’s actually swallowed the pill and doesn’t spit it out.
Administering Liquid Meds
Medications in liquid form can be poured in a Greenies Pill Pocket, or you can administer them to your dog as recommended by the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine and Paw Blog.
1. Make a “tent” out of your dog’s cheek by hooking your finger in the skin at the corner of her mouth and gently pulling the skin away from her gum line, forming a pouch.
2. Insert the syringe or dropper in the pouch you made.
3. Slightly raise your dog’s muzzle as you quickly squirt the medication into her mouth. Do not lift her muzzle so far that it’s pointing straight up, since she could inhale the liquid into her windpipe and choke. Avoid placing the liquid in the back of her throat, which can also cause choking.
4. Remove the syringe and hold her mouth closed.
5. Gently stroke your dog’s throat or blow on her nose to stimulate swallowing.