Never having to give our dog anything but a monthly heartworm pill, I always thought it strange when people would mention hiding their pet’s pill in peanut butter or cheese. When our golden retriever was diagnosed with a thyroid disorder and we began giving medication daily, I got it. My once eager pill taker wasn’t having that daily dose. She was over it.
So, tired of sticking my hand down my dog’s throat, I began exploring options for getting my sweet pooch to take her meds. Here are three tried and true options (for dogs and for cats) for getting your pet to take his meds.
- Three-Treat Trick: In the feature The Vets Will See You Now in the October 2017 issue of Real Simple, certified animal trainer Mikkel Becker recommends the “three-treat trick.” Give one of your dog’s regular treats followed by the pill covered in cheese or xylitol-free peanut butter, followed by another one of his treats. He won’t even notice the pill.
- Pill Pockets: Jessica Vogelsang, DVM recommends Greenies Pill Pockets for the dog who does notice the pill and continually spits it out. In her post, What is the Best Way to Give My Dog a Pill, she notes that while some dogs are oblivious to the fact that their pill is masquerading inside a yummy snack, others “manage to suck off all the good stuff while leaving the pill behind.” Another benefit to Greenies Pill Pockets? They are made with natural ingredients and are low in calories. I don’t think the same can be said for cheese whiz.
- Flavoring: If the above techniques don’t work for your pet, you can visit a compounding pharmacy and have your pet’s medication seasoned with a cheese, chicken or beef flavor. In her post, Can I Crush Medication in My Dog’s Food, Vogelsang says these flavorings are typically “powerful enough to fool even a finicky pet.”
- Injections: If all else fails, you may want to ask your vet about switching to a twice-yearly injection for routine pills like heartworm preventative. Studies have shown injections to be as effective as the pill at protecting your dog’s heart.
- Give by hand: In her post, Best Ways to Give Your Cat Meds, Dr. Lorie Huston recommends placing the pill on the center of your cat’s tongue, as far back into his mouth as possible. Following are Huston’s step by step instructions to help you prepare for administering the medicine: Place your cat on a flat surface, facing away from you with his hindquarters against your body. Using one hand, steady your cat’s head and tilt it slightly upward. Grasp the pill or capsule between your thumb and forefinger of the opposite hand. Use your middle finger to open your cat’s mouth and slide the pill down the center of the tongue to the back of the mouth, getting the pill as far back into their mouth as possible. Huston recommends rewarding your cat with a treat after giving the pill.
- Pill Gun or Popper: Follow the same guidelines for giving a pill by hand, making sure to place the gun or popper at the back of the mouth, and follow up with a treat. The MobileSharp Pet Pillar can be used with cats and dogs and has a soft, rubber tip for comfort. One reviewer said it was “definitely a keeper,” and mentioned it saving her fingers.
- Transdermal Gel or Patch: Transdermal gel is a medicated gel that is absorbed through the skin. Patches administer medication in a time-released fashion.
- Convenia: Dr. Patty Khuly sang her praises for Convenia (in the case of antibiotic pilling) in her blog post Pfizer's Cool New Convenia. She likes Convenia for three reasons: one injection lasts two weeks, it eliminates user-error (i.e. owner forgetting to give the pill) and it cuts down on the risk of bacterial resistance, which can develop if your pet does not receive meds in the appropriate manner.
Still need a little help? Check out this video for more information on giving your pet pills. It is important to maintain a healthy relationship with your pet. And if that means splurging on a pill pocket or pill popper to keep the peace, I say go for it.