Ask Nancy: My Dog Won’t Take Her Pills!

When it comes to taking medicine some dogs are easy and some are a challenge. Because my most challenging dog is a wily female I’ll talk about ‘her’ in this but the methods apply to male dogs as well!

There are ways to get pills into even the most suspicious of dogs.

Before your dog eats is often a good time to sneak a pill in a treat while the dog is hungry enough to be extremely interested in a taste thrill.

The way I do this for suspicious dogs is I set up three treats of something the dog really likes that can hold the pill inside. This could be cheese, a hot dog slice, a bit of chicken liver, canned dog food, liverwurst, canned cat food – whatever the dog adores that will hide the pill inside it.

Some people find putting the pill in one of the pill pockets and then hiding the pocket inside a better tasting treat works too.

With the three treat method, the first treat is small and will have no pill in it. You hand the dog that one to eat and check out how wonderful the flavor is. Just as she finishes that first tiny taste, you hand her the medium sized pill filled treat and then, as she grabs that, you shove the third treat right in front of her nose, all set for her to grab just as soon as she bolts down the one with the pill in it. When you stick that third treat right in front of her nose, she should gulp the second pill filled treat to grab the third one. If you have a second dog the competition for the food treat can make the ill dog gulp even faster. Don’t forget to give the healthy dog a reward too to keep the competition up.

You do have to figure out what it is the dog really likes for treats. Some people find a lower level treat followed by a higher value treat, followed by the ultimate treat, which the dog would turn inside out for, helps the process along. So a bit of cheese, then some hot dog with the pill followed by some liverwurst might work for one example of escalating value treats.

Appealing to greed usually works.

But if she is too smart for that, and some dogs can spit a pill from a treat faster than you can read the words about her doing it, then you can get the pill in a more forceful way.

Stand behind the dog with her sitting between your legs. For big dogs you can stand and for smaller dog sitting can work. Raise her muzzle up at moderate angle and with your fingers roll the upper lips in over the upper teeth on either side to hold the mouth open. The lips covering the surface of the teeth should keep the dog from biting down on your fingers.

Stick the pill down the throat as far back as you can get it, almost into the throat, and shut the mouth (release the lips as you close the mouth so the dog isn’t biting herself). Keep the muzzle angled up a little, the mouth shut, and stroke the throat until the dog swallows. The moment the dog swallows the pill you praise her to high heavens and then hand her a good treat to be the ‘spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down’.

If you have an eye dropper, dosing syringe, or a sports bottle you can add a squirt of water to the mouth, putting it in right after the pill is given, or by squirting it along the rear inside of the lips when the mouth is shut, to help prompt swallowing and to wash the pill down the throat so it doesn’t stick in the mouth saliva.

You can try the same hide it in a treat trick for liquid meds if the volume given is small enough. For liquids you can also use a variation of the pilling technique too. Tilt the dog’s muzzle up. Slide the dosing dropper inside the cheek of the dog between the teeth and cheek. Drip the liquid med in near the rear teeth. Keep the head up until swallowing happens. The liquid medicine should seep around the back teeth to the throat forcing the dog to swallow it all.

One warning, releasing the head before the dog swallows can result in a coating of liquid medicine all around the room and even on you! This typically happens when you are dressed for work and the meds are brightly colored!


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