Medicating Your Dog
Low stress ways to give your dog tablets
By DANIELLE BECK, CAB
As those of you who follow my blog and facebook page, you will know that my youngest dog has just had surgery and needs multiple tablets daily. My other dog has dietary pancreatitis, which gave him a lot of acid reflux and nausea before diagnosis, and he too required tablets. Now when medicating my dogs in the past I’ve always just been able to give them tablets. It didn’t matter the size or taste, I’d just offer it to them and they’d take it and I’d give them a nice treat afterwards; which I highly recommend you do.
However, there are some dogs who don’t like the taste of the tablets, like my youngest Spock. Other dogs don’t trust you or the tablets enough to accept them. They will just refuse to eat them, or spit them out; like my Nuffle.
When a dog spits out or refuses to take medication the first bit of advice is always HIDE IT IN FOOD. This can be done by placing the tables in the dogs food bowl hoping that incredible nose of theirs won’t notice or wrapping it up in a piece of food. Both of these can and do work….until they don’t.
So how do you medicate your dog, without forcing the tablets into their mouth?
What about the dogs who are not overly into food due to nausea? This can result in food aversion, so hiding tablets in food is pointless, as they’re not eating. Others may eat the food or treat, bite down on the tablet, get that horrible taste, spit it out and never trust that food again, or at least you have to offer it a lot for them to accept that it’s not always ‘poison’. This happened with my dog Nuffle, his nausea put him off food. I tried different foods to encourage him to eat but accidentally ‘poisoned’ those flavours, which took literal months to get him to trust food and treats again.
If this happens it’s incredibly difficult to get them to eat. You need the same food, no tablets, place it down and pick it up and repeat. When they get their appetite back you can add tastier food to their food once they eat, so you can reward them for eating and build that up….but what about the medication?
“Living with a dog that refuses to eat because they think everything you give them is medicated is something I wouldn’t wish on anyone, and is easier to prevent than cure”
In many cases to prevent these problems it’s best to not allow the food to get ‘poisoned’ in the first place, or to build up cooperative care with your dog where they become comfortable with you putting the tablet in their mouth, or taking it voluntarily, which takes a lot of training but is worth the effort when it comes to medicating your dog without force, food or restraint.
Co-op care is what I did with Nuffle, as he was already trained to be comfortable with veterinary handling, so I didn’t hide the medication in food, I just gave it to him. We have a great relationship, he didn’t like it but will accept/tolerate it. This is what I do for him, as his diet is limited I daren’t limit it further by accidentally poisoning a foodstuff with medication.
However, with my youngster Spock, I haven’t focused too much on co-op care training, he can be handled, will tolerate some restrain and did accept his mouth being touched. After a couple of vet trips and too much of this he now WILL NOT tolerate that and I wont push or break our relationship by forcing it. So what now? Well he had no taste aversion, he wasn’t nauseous, so I did hide the medication in his food…something I hate doing, but it’s the lesser of the two evils.
This is how I’m managing it, as he needs tablets 3 times a day for a few weeks. I have to get them in him somehow, while I go through the co op training with him separately. So how do I do it?
Problems with medication
- Lack of toleration of restraint resulting in aggression on approach
- Taste Aversion resulting in food/treat refusal
Is it possible to hide medication in treats without creating food aversion?
In short no; but we can greatly reduce the chance though how we deliver it.
- Choose the right food, cheese, chunks of sausage that can fully enclose the medication and have high palatability and smell.
- Deliver the ‘treat’s in fast succession mixed in with non medicated treat
- Ensure the non medicated treats are delivered before and straight after the medicated.
To help there’s a video of the treat delivery game I play with Spock, we utilise a self control game called ‘mousey mousey’.
- Place the treats on the floor with your hand over,
- Let you dog sniff,
- Wait for them to back away
- Fire the treats quickly, getting them to chase or follow movement to excite them.
They will often bypass the chewing due to the excitement of another treat and just swallow, similar to playing catching if they can. The faster the better. We don’t want to give them too much time to investigate what they’re eating.
Practise this game a lot without medicated treats first, so they understand the game and know to get the food quickly.
Handy Medication Tip
Keep left over tablet sachets and tubs and use this to keep some treats in. it builds up a great association so they dont run off at the sight of the tablet packet.
CAUTION – IF THIS WORKS TOO WELL ENSURE ALL TABLETS ARE KEPT LOCKED AND OUT OF REACH, SO THEY DON’T ACCIDENTALLY OVERDOSE THINKING THERE’S TREATS INSIDE.
The video above gives you a quick demonstration of what i do to get the tablets into Spock. We play this game 3 times a day and it’s one of his favourite games before I added the medication and he still loves it. It’s worthwhile playing a game like this often with your dog as they will need tablets at some point in their life. If you haven’t trained them to accept them voluntarily, which is by far the best way, you can use this to prevent ruining your relationship by forcing it on them. If you dont have the time to teach the co-op care games like this are the most effective way to medicate your dog.