Clever Tricks For Giving Your Pet a Pill


Giving a pill to a dog or cat is a big challenge for most pet owners and ranks up there with cutting their toenails or giving them a bath. It’s like they hear you open the cabinet to get the bottle, and “poof” …they disappear. When you finally find them and get them in front of you, they refuse to open their mouths. When they do…they can smell or detect the most cleverly-disguised pill and it ends up on the floor.

If you have tried everything to give your dog or cat a pill, we can help! Here are several clever tricks that range from simple to no fail.

Giving a Pill to Your Pet

It’s important to learn the right approach to giving your pet medications for a number of reasons. First, if your pet needs these meds, it is for their health. Antibiotics, pain medications, and other types of pills are important for your pet’s recovery. With prescriptions, it is a must that you follow your vet’s direction and administer the correct dosage.

Second, if your pet is afraid, struggling with them to give them pills can only amplify their fears and negative associations.

Now to get to the good news…learning how to give your pet medications is indeed possible. We do it every day. You are welcome to try Levels I and II, but it may be simpler to go to straight to the Level III no-fail option for giving pills to dogs or cats.

Bribe Him/Her with Food

If your dog or cat is food motivated (duh), use food! You can give both the pill and food together (as long as the pill goes with food). This is for pets who aren’t wary of pills in food or don’t seem to mind them. How do they know it’s in the food? They can smell the medication!

  • Place the medication in a small amount of wet food, if they like it.
  • Use a bit of peanut butter or cream cheese to disguise the pill.
  • Plain yogurt is another good food that can mask medication.
  • A piece of cheese, hot dog or liverwurst can conceal the pill.
  • There are tons of food suggestions online that help you hide pills.
  • Store-bought and DIY natural pill pockets are a great way to hide a pill.

Bait and Switch

If your dog or cat is on to the food bribe game, but you want to try one more option for using food to slide a pill past them, see if the “bait and switch” method works with your dog.

  1. Choose a treat your pet really loves.
  2. Give him the treat without the pill.
  3. Hide the pill in the second treat.
  4. Finally, give him a third treat without the medication.

Alternatively, get your dog’s attention on a pill-free treat, then give them the treat with the pill while they are looking at the other treat.

Clever Tricks to Try When All Else Fails

Many dogs and cats are savvy to our tricks and refuse to eat baited treats or they snub their nose at the food options. Here’s a simple method for making sure they swallow that pill.

Dogs:

When your dog is calm, here’s how to get a dog to take a pill:

  • Place a thumb and forefinger of one hand on either side of your dog’s mouth.
  • Using the index finger and thumb of your other hand, open the mouth.
  • Quickly place the pill at the very back of the mouth. (Alternatively, you can use a pill popper to place it far back in the throat.)
  • Close the mouth and hold it closed for three seconds while pointing your dog’s nose toward the ceiling.

Suggestions for making it more pleasant are 1) swipe the pill through wet food, yogurt or something your dog likes the flavor of before inserting the pill, 2) give the pill right before feeding so the reward of a meal pairs positively with receiving the pill, and 3) stay calm so that your dog doesn’t sense your stress.

Cats:

The first technique for giving a pill to your cat if very similar to the one described for dogs above.

  • First, make sure that the pill is sized for a cat (have your vet help you with this).
  • Have your cat’s breakfast ready. Place the food down in the bowl.
  • Position yourself behind your cat to prevent him from backing up.
  • Don’t feel stressed or it will stress your cat.
  • Administer the pill as the cat is about to eat. Swipe it through your cat’s wet food or something like yogurt or sour cream.
  • Place a thumb and forefinger of one hand on either side of your cat’s mouth.
  • Using the index finger and thumb of your other hand, open the mouth.
  • Quickly place the pill at the very back of the mouth.
  • Close the mouth and hold it closed for three seconds while pointing your cat’s nose toward the ceiling.
  • Let them eat their food. That’s how to pill a cat!

Alternatively, use a pill popper device to place the pill at the back of your cat’s throat. You can also use this method with liquid medication. If you’re struggling to give a pill, discuss other options with your veterinarians, such as a liquid form of the medication or smaller pills.

EPN