You realize at that moment that the health of your dog depends on receiving his medication. But on the drive home, you re-live earlier scenarios in which your dog bolted out of the room at pill time or deftly spit out the pill when you weren’t looking. Or he wiggled just as you were about to give him liquid medicine that ended up spilling on the floor.
Simply stopping giving pills out of frustration won’t help your dog get better. It can worsen the situation and lead to other health issues. If treatment is shortened because you think that your dog is doing better, you may risk the problem not resolving or recurring.
The idea of trying to force a pill into your dog’s mouth is not always comfortable for either you or your dog. Some dogs are difficult to pill because they don’t like being restrained or having their mouth opened or the pill does not taste good to them.
If only giving pills and liquid medicine at home could be as easy as teaching your dog to sit on cue.
It can. Before you leave the veterinary clinic, consult with your veterinarian to verify if you can split the pill, coat it in margarine, hide it in peanut butter or cream cheese or pulverize it without affecting its potency or ability to be properly absorbed. Your goal is to make medicine time a more pleasant experience for your dog.
In addition, ask your veterinarian if the three-times-a-day dose can be converted to one or two times a day without compromising the medicine.
At home and before reaching for the medicine bottle, put yourself in the right frame of mind. Be patient but purposeful as your dog can read – and respond – to your emotional state.
In a technique known as counter conditioning, create a positive emotional state in your dog by first offering bite-sized treats. Rather than give one large treat, dole out 10 small treats quickly so your dog focuses more on the treats and less on the pill. Always follow giving a pill with a treat so your dog develops a positive association.
Ready? Here is a step-by-step guide to effectively pill a dog:
Step. 1. Grasp your dog’s upper jaw behind the canine teeth. If your dog wiggles or struggles, sit behind him or position him in a corner so that he can’t back up.
Step. 2. Hold the pill between your index finger and thumb. Place your third or fourth finger in the region of the lower incisors, avoiding the canines.
Step. 3. Open your dog’s mouth and place the pill at the base of his tongue before he has an opportunity to resist. Avoid tilting your dog’s head because that can inhibit swallowing.
Step 4. Close your dog’s mouth and rub his throat in a downward stroking motion to help encourage swallowing. You can also blow on his nose or cover his nostrils for a few seconds. Wait to release your hands until your dog swallows.
Step 5. Follow with some treats or water to ensure that the pill doesn’t get stuck in the esophagus.
To pill difficult dogs, stash the pill inside a Pill Pocket, cheese or meat. Make sure your dog waits politely to take a few treats not containing the pill. Hold each treat out of reach until he sits.
Grasp the dog’s muzzle while holding a treat in front of him. Then push the treat right up to his mouth so he doesn’t have to reach for it. Do this a few times. Once he is expecting treats, open his mouth and toss in the pill hidden in a treat. Close his mouth and follow steps 4 and 5.
If your dog needs liquid medicine, make sure you know the right dosage to avoid an accidental overdose. Do this by having your veterinarian identify the amount on the syringe using a permanent marker or tape.
At home, your next goal is to get your dog to associate the syringe with a reward opportunity. You do this by dabbing canned cheese, peanut butter or other tasty treat on the outside of the syringe for your dog to lick off. Praise him as he does this.
It is important to take the time to train your dog that getting medicine is a fun procedure that merits tasty rewards.
Now you’re ready to follow these four steps to successfully give liquid medication to your dog:
Step 1. Prepare the canned cheese or peanut butter on the outside of the syringe filled with medicine. The treat of choice won’t mask the taste, but it will help to put your dog in a cooperative state of mind.
Step 2. Keep your dog from wiggling free by positioning his body against you. This also prevents him from backing up. Restrain his head with one hand in a U hold. With the treat on it and the medication inside, insert the syringe into the side of his mouth.
Step 3. As your dog focuses on licking the treat, inject the medication into the back of his throat. Remove the syringe and close his mouth so that he can’t spit out the medication.
Step 4. As soon as he swallows the medicine, follow up immediately with a small healthy treat to reinforce medicine-giving time as a positive experience.
Whether you need to give pills or liquid medicine to your dog, always remember you have a vital ally in your veterinarian. Do not hesitate to contact your veterinarian for added tips to ensure your dog receives all the medicine he needs to recover.