How to Pill Your Pet: Dispensing Medications Made Easy

Perhaps your pet lives in ignorant bliss when it’s time for their heartworm preventative, but for others - medications can be a hard pill to swallow. Some pills are bitter and despite the tasty wet canned food you attempted to hide it in, it’s a common sight to see the pill remain in the dish long after the last morsel is gone. If your four-legged friend suddenly turns into Sherlock Holmes when you give them their meds wrapped in cheese and bacon, you may need some veterinarian approved tricks up your sleeve to help the medicine go down.

Make it a fun game:

The One Two Three Game: For the extremely picky eaters out there, start with some highly palatable food like chicken or peanut butter. Hide the medication in their favorite food and put it aside - but keep that tasty treat nearby! To play the one two three game, give your dog a “sample” of the treat without a pill. Next, offer the treat encased pill by putting it an inch away from their nose and pull it quickly away before they can inspect it too much. Repeat this process a couple of times to pique their interest. By the third or fourth time, they will want to gobble it down pretty quickly. Follow the pill encased treat up with another “sample” to wash it all down. Unless the pill is truly noxious, this works really well and makes the entire exercise great fun.

The Great Fake Out: This is particularly successful with playful pups that are highly food motivated. Similar to the first game, hide that pill in a highly rewarding treat before you start. Then, throw some random treats in the air for them to catch. After a few fun catches, throw one that has the medication in it. Many times, they are so distracted with the game, they do not realize the medication was in the food.

The Clean Get Away: We’ve saved the best for last, and if you’ve ever given your dog peanut butter, you’ll know why it’s so effective. Put some (Xylitol-free) peanut butter on the tip of your finger and place the pill on top. If needed, gently open your dog’s mouth, then scrape the peanut butter and pill onto the roof of their mouth. Your dog will be so busy working the peanut butter off the roof of their mouth that the pill will automatically be swallowed.

Cat Owners, we hear ya…

If you’re like most cat owners, you have struggled at one time or another while trying to give your cat a pill. With a little bit of advice and patience, you will be a pro in no time. The easiest thing to do is to try to hide it in something that he likes to eat. Here are some ways we suggest disguising your cat’s medication:

  1. If it’s a liquid, you can dissolve it some tuna broth. Simply pour the tuna water out of the can and add the liquid contents of the medication.
  2. Hide the pill in a little bit of cream cheese, plain yogurt, or vanilla ice cream. If the medication is in powdered form, you can mix it in with a bit of cream chese or yogurt and wipe it on their paws. Cat's are diligent at self-grooming and will lick every bit of substance off of their paws.
  3. Try using a product called Pill Pockets. It is a soft, hollowed out treat that you can form around the pill.
  4. If your cat is more cunning than the average feline and you are still having issues, then you will have to pill your cat. This means that you will physically need to put it down their throat. If you are worried about being scratched, we recommend wrapping your cat in a thick beach towel like a burrito. With only their head sticking out, you will have more control. This technique is easier with two people, so try recruiting a friend!

Pilling your Cat:

Once your cat is secure, stroke the top of their head to let him know that you’re there. Next, come in with the same hand and place your fingers right behind the canine teeth. Once your fingers are placed, he will naturally open up his mouth. Next you will want to tilt their head backwards, so that it's nose is pointed upwards, and use your other hand to drop in the pill. You will need to do this quickly, and as far back as possible. The good news with cats is, they have a short face, so you won’t have to reach back into their mouth too far.

However, if you’re still hesitant to place your hand in their mouth, you can also use a device called a pill wand. This is simply a long, syringe like apparatus that holds the pill at the tip, protecting your hand and fingers.

Once the pill is placed in their throat, you will want to close their mouth and gently stroke their chin and neck, this helps the pill go down. If it gets stuck, they will typically spit it out. Once saliva comes into contact with the pill it may become very slippery. If that’s the case, you may need to get a new tablet and start over.

If you have a cat that needs to take multiple medications, you can use empty gelatin capsules. With this product, you can place multiple pills into one capsule, and save yourself the hassle of pilling your cat multiple times.

Medication Considerations.

Fortunately, most heartworm preventatives are disguised as extremely palatable treats and our pets are usually more than willing to swallow them whole. Keep in mind that some dogs have allergies or sensitivities to dairy or other ingredients, so consider that when choosing treats. Also, some medicines, such as metronidazole, are extremely bitter and cause excess salivation. So, unless you like peanut butter flavored drool all over your house, it may be better to skip that peanut butter hack!

Food Considerations.

Always use non-toxic foods to medicate your pets - this means no xylitol sweetners, grapes (raisins too!), onions, etc. Please visit the Toxic Food Guide for Pets for a complete list.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to us! We want to help ensure that your dog gets the proper medication, in the right doses and on schedule, so we’re happy to help!

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