Ensuring your dog takes its prescribed medications is an essential responsibility as a pet owner. When a dog is ill or requires preventative treatments like heartworm medication, getting them to actually swallow pills can be incredibly difficult.
Dogs seem to have a sixth sense for detecting medications and will go to great lengths to avoid taking them. However, their health depends on receiving these treatments, so pet owners must get creative.
While getting a pill into a dog may seem impossible at times, there are several techniques you can try to make the process easier on both of you. With some patience and creativity, you can find a method that works.
Hide the Pill in a Treat
One of the easiest ways to get a dog to take a pill is to hide it inside a treat they love. To do this, choose a soft, pliable treat like a piece of cheese, hot dog, or bread. Make sure the treat is large enough to completely envelop the pill.
Then, place the pill in the center and mold the treat around it. The key is making sure the pill is completely hidden inside so your dog cannot detect it. You can even coat the treat ball with an extra layer of cheese or peanut butter.
Most dogs will gobble up treats quickly without noticing the hidden pill. This works best with very food-motivated dogs.
Consider Alternative Medication Forms
If you have tried every trick and method, but your dog still refuses pills, talk to your vet. See if the medication comes in a chewable tablet, liquid, or topical form.
Sometimes, a pet apothecary can offer specialized formulations that make medicating easier. They can compound specific flavors or create unique delivery methods tailored to your pet’s preferences.
The veterinarian may be able to prescribe a more palatable medication type or flavoring to make it more appealing. Some drugs are even available as tasty, meat-flavored chews.
There are more options available than ever before, so avoid forcing pills that create an extremely negative experience. Discuss alternatives to make medicating your dog less complicated for both of you.
Grind the Pill into Powder
If your dog is too smart to fall for treats, you can try grinding up the pill and mixing the powder into their food. Use a mortar and pestle or a pill crusher to grind pills into a fine powder.
Make sure there are no large pieces left. Then, stir the powder into a small amount of wet dog food or broth. The strong flavors and aroma of the food or broth will mask the taste and scent of the powdered medication.
Serve this mix on its own or add it to a whole meal. The powder blends into the food, and most dogs do not detect it. This technique works best for pills that do not have a very bitter taste.
Hide the Pill in a “Pill Pocket” Treat
Pill pockets are a type of soft treat specifically designed to hide pills for dogs and cats. They have a doughy texture and come in flavors like chicken and peanut butter.
To use them, simply place the pill in the pocket, then mold the treat around it. Pill pockets completely mask the smell and taste of medications. Most pets gobble them up without realizing there is a pill inside.
You can find pill pockets at any pet store or online retailer. They provide an easy, pre-made solution for disguising pills.
Crush and Mix the Pill into Liquid
Some medications can be crushed and dissolved into a liquid. Use a mortar and pestle to crush the pills into a powder. Then, mix the powder into water, broth, or wet food to create a liquid suspension. The medication will dissolve evenly into the liquid.
You can then use an oral syringe to squirt the liquid into your dog’s mouth. Slowly depress the plunger so they are forced to swallow it.
Liquids make it harder for dogs to hold the medication in their mouth. This technique works best with pills that are not too bitter-tasting.
Camouflage the Taste with Flavorings
If your dog refuses to take a bitter pill even when hidden, try masking the flavor with strong taste enhancers. There are powdered flavorings made specifically for disguising pet medications.
Mix the powder with the crushed pill to coat it. Or, dip the pill in a paste flavoring like salmon, cheese, or peanut butter.
You can also follow the pill with a tasty liquid chaser like beef or chicken broth. The familiar flavors overpower the medication’s bitterness so the dog cannot detect it. This makes pills more palatable.
Make Taking Pills a Positive Experience
Sometimes, it helps to make the process of taking pills a positive experience for your dog. Praise, pet, and offer high-value treats immediately after they swallow the pill. This reinforces that taking pills is a good thing.
You can also feed the dog their whole meal after medicating them so they associate it with something enjoyable. Building positive associations helps reduce resistance over time. Additionally, remain calm and relaxed when giving pills to minimize stress.
Getting your reluctant canine to take pills does not have to be a struggle. With creativity and patience, you can find a method that works for your dog. Whether you disguise pills in food, use pill pockets, or make the process rewarding, there are many options to explore.
Working together with your veterinarian, you can ensure your dog gets the medications they need without the drama and stress of forcing pills. Do not give up if one technique fails.