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Dog Behaviour >> PILLING YOUR PET

Although we are certainly getting more yummy tasting medications for pets there are times when you may not be able to give a flavoured medication.   Using treats such a hot dog, cheese whiz or a Pill Pocket to hide a pill in can work very well but I’ve seen pets refuse those too.  It is especially difficult if the pill is bitter or if the pet has to have pills every day.  Sometimes you may need to give a pill without food as well.  Note:  If your pet bites, consider getting some help from a professional.  Also, if your pet won’t take treats nicely, this is not a good exercise to try without professional help. 

So, I’ve made a video for you showing how to use behaviour modification to train your pet to take pills.  The video is a little dark at the start (sorry) but gets better later on.  This is an example of desensitization and counter conditioning. We pair food with the process of opening the mouth and putting the treat on their tongue.
Watch the video below. 

Tips to review:

  • Start with what the pet will allow such as petting on top of head or over nose.
  • Use small tasty training treats (see my article on Training Treats for more information).
  • Practice for just a few minutes/day, twice/day for 5 – 10 days.  Progress slowly.
  • At first, just feed the treat without trying to open the mouth;  work up to opening the mouth a little and feeding the treat;   progress to opening the mouth and putting the treat far back in the mouth;  progress to pushing the occasional treat far back in the mouth.
  • When you have to give the real pill, ask the vet if a few treats before/after is OK. Then use the technique to put a treat on back of tongue, then give the pill placing as far in as possible, then follow with two treats on the tongue.  This is especially important for bitter pills that you have to give several days in a row. 
  • For bitter pills try to get the pill quite far down so they don’t taste it!
  • If you cannot give any food to your dog with the pill, then just pretend the pill is a treat and reward with lots of praise or a special toy and some play time immediately after giving the treat.   Bring the treat container with you so your pet will recognize the game!
  • Be sure you roll the pet’s lips under your fingers so you are unlikely to get bit.
  • Take breaks and make the dog/cat want to play the game more.  Stop the game before the pet is full or bored (even if that occurs before the 5 minute mark). 
  • You can use the same technique to teach a pet to take liquid medications.  Use a small syringe and some liquid tasty treat such as tuna juice and warm water.  Start by just dribbling some in and then keep progressing until you can squirt quite a bit in.
  • With pills that are bitter try not to handle the pill before giving.  Pour it onto a plate or the top of your treat container.  Some pets will be sensitive to the pill dust on your hands and on the treats.
  • Try to approach with a positive, attitude.  If you go to give the pill and you are feeling sorry and upset that the pet is sick or that you have to get pills he/she will sense something is up. 
  • If the pet is fighting or struggling, something is not right in the process.  Slow it down and analyze where things went wrong.  Feel free to contact me on my website for help as well.

This video of mine will play on you tube.
NOTE: Any other videos that appear after this first video are not mine.

Thank you for your interest and good luck with the process!