Us pawrents understand that certain things are great for our pooches: THE PACK's nutritious dog food obviously, but also canine vitamins or veterinary-prescribed medication. When our pups get sick, the latter can even be lifesaving. But when it comes to what they put in their mouths, our dogs don't always know what's good for them!
Pooches who’ll happily nosh down on random foods they find on their walks, cow poo or anything you drop while eating, suddenly become the most discerning of dogs when presented with a tiny pill. And who can blame them? We can't explain that these suspicious looking, odd smelling 'treats' are going to make them feel better.
So how do we convince (or dare we say, trick!) our canine pals into eating their meds?
Hide Pills Inside Tasty Food
The obvious hack for sneaking pills into furry tummies is to hide them inside larger soft treats or food, ideally still small enough to swallow in one mouthful. Sticky, smelly stuff like vegan cream cheese or peanut butter works well for concealing a tablet, or sneak a pill into a bowl of wet PACK food! If you can break or grind up the meds to make them less obvious, even better, but check that with your vet first. Some medication becomes less effective when broken down, or you might have a liquid capsule that needs to be swallowed whole.
Another tip: open the pill bottle somewhere your dog won't hear! We don't know about your household, but here at THE PACK our dogs can hear the sound of a can of No-Cluck Casserole opening from three rooms away (not to mention the crunch of a raw carrot). Just as these sounds create positive food associations, the crack of a bottle being unscrewed can signal alarm bells for your pup, foiling any clever trickery you might be about to attempt! On a similar note, make sure you wash your hands after preparing your tablet Trojan horse. With their incredible noses, our dogs can immediately smell residue from a pill on our hands, giving the game away in an instant. That’s why the smellier the decoy food, the better!
Alternate Hidden Pills With Hidden Treats
You may be realising that your dog is far from dumb. In fact, you might find that your Sherlock Hound notices the change in texture when you hide a hard pill in a soft treat. These Poirot pooches will then spit out the whole thing or even lick off the tasty part, rejecting the meds! Impressive but also incredibly frustrating. However, all is not lost! Out-wile your whippet by wrapping hard treats or kibble in soft food and feed one or two of those first - then sneak in a pill version. Keep alternating them and hopefully your dog won't decipher the difference. You can even try this without the palaver of food coatings, simply giving your dog treats in quick succession and occasionally sneaking in a pill instead (treat, treat, treat, treat, pill, treat, treat, pill, treat etc).
Try More Versatile Forms Of Your Medication
If your canine Columbo still isn't fooled, go back to your vet and ask if there's an alternative version of the meds you can try. Some tablets have flavoured options that dogs might eat on their own, no subterfuge required. Alternatively, your vet might be able to swap in something easier to administer in liquid or powdered form.
Make Meds-Time Fun!
Another option is to try to feed the meds in a more inventive way, presenting them as an incentive to do a trick or a reward out on a walk, building positive rather than negative associations. You can even add them to a puzzle feeder with other treats – the idea is to get them into your dog while their attention is elsewhere: the focus is the puzzle, the trick or the walk, not what they’re actually consuming.
One more idea which might sound barking mad but can be surprisingly effective is to pretend to eat the meds yourself! Our pooches tend to want what we're eating, so it shouldn't be hard to find a snack you know they always beg for. Whether a packet of crisps or an ice-cream, begin eating it in front of your dog, with the meds preprepared in the packet or cone. Then 'accidentally' drop the crisp or ice cream coated meds on the floor and watch your hound hoover it up without a second thought!
As A Last Resort…
Unfortunately, when our dogs are sick enough to need medication, they've sometimes gone off food altogether. In these cases, a very 'high value' food or treat can still appeal, allowing you to use the techniques above. However, other times, your hound might have lost interest in all edible things. This can be really distressing for pawrents since we know that eating the pills will eventually restore their appetite - but how do we get those first meds in? It might sound horrible, but you may need to literally force feed your dog. Have your vet show you how to place the pill at the back of his or her throat and encourage them to swallow. You can also use a pill gun to help get the tablet to the right place, especially when administering tiny pills.
Hopefully these tips and tricks will have your furry friend happily lapping up their meds, whether knowingly or unknowingly! Either way, they'll thank you for it in the long run.
Do you have any other hacks for feeding medication? We'd love to share your tips with our pawrents on social media! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or tag us on your socials @thepackpet…
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