What To Do When Your Dog Won’t Take That Medicine

by Perfect Puppy Care on February 17, 2011

Giving a dog medication can be a simple matter – or it can turn into a fiasco the likes of which you have never seen before.

If I had a dollar for every person I’ve talked to whose frustration level was on overload when they tried administering medicine, I could probably buy enough food to feed every puppy in the entire Perfect Puppy Care community.

One desperate woman who was trying to get her poodle to take a little Pepto-Bismol reported that the floor was pink, the dog was pink, she was pink and ceiling had specks of pink. And the dog still had no medicine.

Another reported that she went through two pounds of liverwurst and a package of hot dogs trying to get her St. Bernard to take a tiny pill. Out of treats and patience, she called the vet’s office asking for advice.

Don’t fret. Giving your dog medication does not have to be a feat to fear.

One of the best things you can do is to get your dog used to having your fingers in his or her mouth. Regular brushing of the dog’s teeth and an oral examination can go a long way in paving the way for easier dosing of medicine when the time comes.

I always found the honey approach to be a lot more effective than the forceful approach when it came to giving pills. First, don’t let your frustration scare your dog. Try to give the medicine using a treat first. If that doesn’t work, then you will have to resort to using your fingers to administer a pill.

Although foods made for humans are not recommended for canines, a small piece of hot dog can be worth its weight in gold when it comes to getting a stubborn dog to swallow a pill. Hide the medicine in the middle of the piece of hot dog and pray that Rover swallows it whole.

A small meatball of liverwurst or some of the raw dog foods now available in supermarkets and pet stores can also be used to “hide” pills. I use the word “hide” loosely because dogs have a remarkably keen sense of smell.

Peanut butter, marshmallow and cheese can also be used to try to hide pills. It is important to make sure your dog swallows the medicine if you use any of these things to coerce him or her into taking pills. Beware! Some dogs are very good at separating even the tiniest pill from the tasty food morsels.

Some dogs will graciously accept capsules, but will spit a pill across the room. If your dog tends to do this, visit a health food store for empty capsules. You can then crush or break the dog’s medicine into pieces that will fit inside the capsules.

Another means of coercing a dog to take medicine is to try flavorings. Some popular flavorings used in canine medicines are beef, chicken and tuna. If you have trouble finding a pharmacist that flavors pet medicines locally, ask the dog’s veterinarian. There are compounding pharmacies that specialize in flavored medications.

When all attempts at hiding the medications fail, it is time to resort to the old fashioned methods. Start by having your dog sit quietly beside you or in front of you. Gently grasp your dog’s head with your non-dominant hand. For example, a right-handed person would use their left hand to grasp the dog’s head. Place the non-dominant hand on top of the dog’s muzzle. Your thumb should be on one side of the muzzle and your fingers should be on the other side of the muzzle. You want to hold the dog’s head firmly, but don’t make your grip too tight. An uncomfortable dog is more likely to try to squirm away.

Once the dog’s head is in place, raise his or her nose toward the ceiling. Apply gentle pressure just behind the upper teeth. This should cause the dog’s mouth to open. Once opened, use your dominant hand to administer the medication. Place the pill between your thumb and forefinger. Use one of your other fingers to gently lower the dog’s jaw. Place the pill as far back in the dog’s mouth as possible so as to minimize the chances of the pill being ejected without causing the dog’s gag reflexes to kick in.

Once the pill is in place in the mouth, close the dog’s mouth and gently rub the dog’s nose or blow lightly on his or her nose. Another means of getting the dog to swallow is to gently rub the dog’s throat. This should stimulate the dog to swallow.

Praise the dog for a job well done. It is a good idea to offer a tasty treat so that the dog thinks of the experience in a positive light.

Giving oral medications can be tricky, but the right tool will help. One of the easiest methods I’ve found of getting a dog to take a liquid such as Amoxicillin or Pepto-Bismol is to use a syringe. (You can ask the dog’s veterinarian for one). Fill the syringe with the required amount of medication and then insert the end of the syringe between the dog’s jaws near the back of the mouth. Gently hold the dog’s mouth closed while slowly squeezing the plunger on the syringe.

When the syringe is empty, blow on the dog’s nose or gently rub its throat to encourage swallowing. This method should go a long way in helping you maintain the natural color of your dog and your home furnishings!

It is important to take great care – especially during the first few episodes of giving medications – to minimize the stress that your dog experiences. You never know how many pills your dog will have to take during his or her lifetime. The last thing you want to create is a dog that becomes paranoid at the sight of a medicine bottle.

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