The old saying about catching more flies with honey than vinegar applies to a lot of things in life – including having to give your dog medicine. At some point in the lives of our pooches many of us are faced with this task, whether it be a short-term course of antibiotics or ongoing medication for a chronic medical condition. Either way, finding the most efficient and hassle-free way of administering the meds serves both you and the dog well.
The easiest way to administer oral medications is to simply open the dog’s mouth, place the pill or capsule way at the back of his tongue, then gently but firmly close his mouth.
Before opening his mouth tilt your dog’s head back very slightly. Also, be sure not to attempt to open his mouth too wide, which is likely to result in him fighting you. You need just enough clearance to get your thumb and index finger, which will be holding the pill, to the back of his tongue while holding his mouth open with your free hand. Stroking the dog’s throat or blowing sharply on his nose have both been proven effective in making the dog swallow the medication while you hold his mouth shut.
There are, of course, dogs who will resist this method, to the point where medicating becomes a struggle. The anatomy of some dogs’ heads and/or mouths makes this an awkward and uncomfortable procedure for all parties involved.
If you are lucky you might be able to get away with simply adding the medication to your dog’s meal. It’s a good idea to add the meds to a small quantity of his food, let him consume that and then follow up with the remainder of his rations. This way you are sure that all the medication has been consumed.
If neither of the above suggestions work, there is an almost-failproof method that works in pretty much every case – bribery!
Tempt with a Treat
Depending on the size of the tablet or capsule, you can encase it in a wide variety of tempting soft foodstuffs that will get the medication where it needs to go. Ideally you want to be able to put the whole tablet intact into a ball of food to ensure that the whole dosage is consumed. However, some dogs’ noses are very sensitive, even when the meds are buried in the food, so you may have to crush tablets before incorporating them in whatever mouthwatering treat you have chosen.
Obviously, the bribe needs to involve something that your dog really loves.
Here are a few tasty suggestions:
- Peanut butter is a good (if somewhat messy) choice
- Canned pumpkin
- Canned dog food
- A soft dog treat
Before inserting medications in any treats, do a test run to be sure that your dog enjoys that particular food or treat. At our house home-made liver brownies cut into a suitable size have always been a game-changer – the strong smell of the liver overrides any trace of the scent of the medications hidden inside.
The big challenge with inserting meds in treats is to ensure that the dog swallows the treat without chewing it. If your pooch crunches into a nasty tasting tablet he may be reluctant to consume that treat again, and you are back to square one.
One of the best ways to avoid this problem is to turn medication time into a game rather than a challenge. Don’t go looking for the dog – call him to you. Place one of your chosen treats, without medication in it, on the floor, make your dog wait, then tell him to get it. Try these two or three times so that his anticipation increases with each treat. By the time you get to treat number three or four, with the medication embedded, he will be keen and likely to gulp it down without trying to chew. Follow up with one more treat with nothing in it. Mission accomplished!
You’ve Got This
If the dog fails to swallow the medicated treat ball immediately, try putting a bit of peanut butter or other soft, tasty substance on his nose. This will prompt him to lick his nose and swallow what is already in his mouth.
Sometimes, despite our best efforts, dogs still manage to scent the medication buried in the good stuff. You can try putting a tablet in an empty gel cap, available at most pharmacies. This helps mask the smell of the medication.
Ultimately, if push comes to shove there are a variety of pill-administering devices on the market that will make your medicating task manageable. These can be obtained through veterinary clinics and pet supply stores.
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