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Tip of the Month

1/9/2015 How to Give a Dog a Pill

The Pill Chore

How to Give a Dog a Pill

Remember the time you hid your dog’s pill in his food bowl and watched him gobble his food while you smirked, thinking how clever you are? Then your dog walks away and the bowl’s only contents are the tiny pill. We’ve all been there. No matter what size the pill is, it can sometimes be a huge chore getting your dog to swallow it.

We’ve all tried disguising the pill in a piece of meat or cheese, and sometimes that is all it takes. For some dogs, though, that won’t do the trick. In fact, dogs can start to associate the bad taste or feeling from the pill (sometimes nausea from antibiotics) with food, which can lead to them not wanting to eat at all. This is a good reason to stay away from mixing the pill with your dog’s food at mealtime.

It can be extremely stressful when your dog keeps spitting out the pill and it starts dissolving as you keep stuffing it into different foods. Try these different methods to avoid the stress and hassle of pill administration.

Use a Distraction

Mix the pill(s) with other treats and hold a positive and upbeat training session. (Contact your local dog trainer to help you teach your dog fun tricks.) Your dog will be happily distracted by the training session and the numerous treat rewards that he won’t notice when the pill is mixed in.

Use Different Food

Don’t always disguise the pill in the same type of food. As mentioned earlier, dogs can associate the bad feeling from the pill with a type of food. If you always stuff the pill in cheese, your dog will decide that cheese is not his favorite. Instead, make sure to frequently give that type of food as a reward—you can put a pill in the cheese once out of the 20 times your dog gets it as a reward it.

Tilt Your Dog’s Head Up

Keeping your dog’s head up can help ensure he swallows the pill. If you give your dog one treat with a pill in it and he lowers his head while chewing, chances are you’ll see the pill drop to the floor. There are two ways to do this without having to physically hold your dog’s head up.

The first (and my dog’s favorite) is to use peanut butter. I hide the pill in a spoonful of peanut butter, give my dog a simple command, such as “Shake,” and then hold the spoon up while she licks it clean. The second way is to use the jackpot reward technique, wherein you give your dog several treats sequentially one right after the other. Have six or seven small treats in your hand along with the pill. Give your dog a simple command and then excitedly reward him with one treat right after the other, delivering the pill as the third or fourth reward.

Make it a Game

Lastly, you can try incorporating games. If your dog is good at catching treats in his mouth, make it a game by tossing 10 to 15 small treats (one at a time) with the pill mixed in the middle. Alternatively, consider using a puzzle toy. These toys are a lot of fun for dogs and provide them with mental stimulation. There are many different kinds, but they all involve your dog either pushing with his nose or pawing a piece of the puzzle to reveal a treat. Your dog will be so focused on getting all of the treats that he won’t notice the pill mixed in.

If you are still experiencing trouble administering pills to your dog, consult with your local veterinarian or dog trainer.

By Cara Leiderman

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