How to administer pills and capsules to dogs

How to administer pills and capsules to dogs

Health & Safety

Generally speaking, convincing a dog to take a pill without making a fuss or in some cases, even noticing, is much easier than it is to perform the same trick with cats! Often, the dog owner has a much easier time of things. However, this isn’t always the case, and for some dog owners, trying to worm their own dogs or give them any other pills or medication that the vet prescribes from time to time can be a nightmare! The added issue when pilling a dog, of course, is that should they decide to snap or bite, they could potentially inflict some significant damage doing so. So what can you do if your dog isn’t keen to take his medicine? Is there any way to deal with this at home, or will you have to take him back and forth to the vet every time he needs something orally administered? Read on to learn some tricks of the trade!

Firstly, try the path of least resistance

If your vision of giving a pill or a capsule involves some kind of alligator-wrestling match with a dog who has his jaw firmly clamped shut and is trying to run for his life, think again! Of course, it may eventually transpire that you having to manually place the pill in your dog’s mouth and make sure he swallows it, but that is by no means the only way to pill a dog.When collecting the pills that you need from the vet, if they are not too pricey, ask if you can buy a few extra as spares, in case you end up wasting a couple while working out by trial and error what is and is not going to work for your dog.If you know that your dog is problematic to pill, ask your vet if there are any alterative methods of administering the medication, such as via injection or trans-dermal gel. Also find out how large and palatable (or otherwise) the pills are, and if it is ok to give them with food or not, as this will help you to work out your chances of being able to mix it into food or convince your dog to take it with a treat.Some medications that come in either pill or capsule form will give you a range of options for how to administer them- for instance, you may be able to crush them up and mix them in with food or milk, or add to water or milk and syringe into your dog’s mouth as a liquid or a paste.Again, however, you must talk to your vet about this first, as some medicines must be given in one piece and not broken up. This is particularly often true with medications that come as granules in capsules- the capsule is specially designed so that the casing doesn’t break down until it is in your dog’s stomach and so the medication isn’t released into your dog’s system too early.Your first attempt at getting your dog to take a pill without any hassle should be to try putting it in his food, or in a special tasty treat you know he enjoys. If you are lucky, he will wolf down your offering without even realising there was a pill present, although if the pill is large, bitter and unpalatable, you may be frustrated to find it left in the bottom of an otherwise spotlessly clean bowl!If this doesn’t work and your vet says that it is ok, try crushing the medication in a solution with water and sucking it into a needle-less syringe (your vet will be able to supply one). If all goes well, you should then be able to shoot into the corner of your dog’s mouth and encourage them to swallow it without too much hassle and without risking your fingers!

Physically administering a pill to your dog

If you’ve read all of the above and are still not having any luck, it looks like you’re going to have to physically administer the pill to your dog! The smaller the dog is the easier this should theoretically be, but as with any size of dog and regardless of their normal personality and mood, if you are trying to do something that thy don’t like, especially if they also feel unwell, they may become snappy.If you can get someone to help you with this process and so have one person controlling the dog d one person administering the pill, this can make things easier, but it can be done alone too.

  • Position yourself behind your dog, either sitting or kneeling if at floor level or standing if your dog is on a table or raised surface
  • With one hand, hold the top of your dog’s muzzle with your forefinger and thumb, and tilt the head back until the jaw opens. From this position, your dog should not be able to snap at you, although help might be needed if he is wriggling!
  • Push the dog’s upper lips over their teeth from above to further discourage them from biting or snapping, and your thumb on the roof of your dog’s palate.
  • With your other hand, hold the pill between forefinger and thumb, and use the middle fingers to open the bottom of the mouth. Use your fingers in the front and middle of the mouth where the small incisor teeth are, and not in the sides where the long, sharp canine teeth reside!
  • Push or drop the pill as far back into your dog’s mouth as you can manage, as the dog may be able to spit it out with ease if it is near the front of the mouth. Have your hands inside of the dog’s mouth for as short a time as possible, but do not rush!
  • Once you are satisfied that you have done this, remove the hand you gave the pill with and place it under the jaw, and pull your other hand back out of the top of the mouth, and close the mouth. Rub your dog’s neck and gullet with the pilling hand, and hold the lips closed with your other hand until you are confident that your dog has swallowed the pill.
  • Keep an eye out to make sure that the pill is not spat back out, despite your best intentions!
  • Always offer water afterwards, and praise or a treat, no matter how difficult the procedure was!

You can also buy a small accessory called a ‘pill popper’ from your vet, which has the appearance of a small needle-less syringe with a clamp at the end to hold the pill. Following the same procedure above, you use the pill popper in place of the pilling hand to push the pill into the back of the throat and push the plunger of the syringe to pop the pill down the throat.Pill poppers can be useful, particularly if your dog is snappy, although they do not suit everyone or every size or type of pill! You have to be particularly careful when using a pill popper not to poke or scratch the inside of your dog’s mouth with it, and while many dog owners swear by using a pill popper, others find them just one more thing to have to think about and manage in what is already quite a fiddly procedure.Ultimately, successfully pilling a dog is a case of trial and error- you may not find what works for you first time. It is important not to get stressed about it or to let your dog get anxious or stressed either, as this will only make things more difficult in future.Talk to your vet if you need any more tips and advice, or are simply not getting anywhere. Good luck!

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