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Animal Hospital of Waynesville

Giving Your Dog a Pill

Having a sick animal can be tough enough without the added stress of having to medicate them. Giving a dog or cat a pill can be difficult and stressful to both you and your pet. You can prevent problems later on by doing some quick and easy training now. Teaching your dog or cat how to accept being handled and pilled before you have to medicate them will help you greatly in the long run.

The training consists of using yummy treats (examples below) to practice putting “pills” in their mouth. The goal is to teach your pet that when you open their mouth and put/drop/push something in their mouth that it is something yummy and should be eaten. Once a pet learns this they will readily swallow the yummy food we drop into their mouth. By doing this you are eliminating the sniff, chew, taste process by which many animals learn to avoid the pills hidden in otherwise yummy food. You will also have an animal that no longer runs or avoids you coming near their face.

We can also modify this process to help teach your pet to tolerate and hopefully love having their mouth looked at or their teeth brushed. Keep in mind that with this training, if your pet doesn’t like your hands near his/her face, you will have to back up a few steps and begin by rewarding them for just bringing your hand near their face.

Some of the benefits of practicing pilling your pet

  • they are being rewarded for having their face and mouth handled which helps them learn to love being handled

  • they think “pill” time is great and will come running to you for their turn

  • when your pet actually is on medication they will be already acclimated to this process so you won’t be adding any additional stress to your already sick pet

  • since your pet is now readily swallowing any food you drop in their mouth you can easily hide the pill in it and they won’t know the difference

  • they will learn to LOVE medication time and line up for their turn

Some examples of yummy food you can use to practice:

  • Some canned food made into a ball (depending on the size of your animal these can be pea size, dime size or nickel size)

  • Greenies Pill Pockets (these are great because they are made to hide a pill. You may want to start with smaller pieces of the treat though)

  • Cheerios

  • Small Treats

  • For some animals you can use their regular dog food but only do this if your pet thinks his food is as rewarding as treats

  • Basically you can use ANYTHING that they think is yummy. It’s also beneficial to practice with multiple things so that they don’t associate it with just one taste. It also helps when you practice with foods that will help hold/disguise a pill.

Practice Practice Practice – You can and should do this with your pets regularly. If you wait to start when you need to give medication you are in for a lot more work and stress for both you and your pet.