If your pet becomes suspicious when you reach for their pill bottle, you know how stressful medicating a pet can be. Our team at Cherry Knolls Veterinary Clinic would like to make the process easier by offering a few pointers. We first asked some valued patients why they were so averse to taking their medications.

Betty the bloodhound: “I can smell a pill a mile away, and I hate the bitter taste and smell. Why would I willingly eat something so terrible?”

Cherry Knolls Veterinary Clinic (CKVC): Dogs have 300 million olfactory receptors and cats have 200 million, compared with humans, who have about 5 million receptors. This means that dogs and cats can smell much more acutely than their human owners. So, you may need to get creative when hiding your pet’s medication.

  • Hide your pet’s medication in a strong smelling food — Choose a treat or food that has an extremely strong smell, such as tuna fish or a particularly strong wet food, to mask the medication’s scent. 
  • Hide your pet’s medication in a gel capsule — Empty gel capsules that can hold your pet’s medication and mask the initial odor and flavor are available.
  • Hide your pet’s medication in their favorite treat — If your pet has a preferred treat, they may be so eager to gobble down the treat that they will not realize the pill is present.

Tony the tabby cat: “I know my human is trying to poison me when she brings out that rattly bottle. I definitely do not trust her, and I hide under the couch until she puts away the toxic substance.”

CKVC: Some pets can be extremely suspicious when you want them to take anything new. You may have to trick your pet in taking their medication.

  • Be sneaky — Ensure your pet is preoccupied in another room and does not see you preparing their medication.
  • Let your pet think they scored — While you are in the kitchen, pretend to unintentionally drop your pet a yummy morsel that is their medication. They will not realize that the “accidental” morsel is medication.
  • Create a game — Prepare several treats and medicate only one. Throw the treats for your pet to catch or chase and eat, starting with an unmedicated treat. Sneak in the medicated treat between undoctored treats.

Ronnie the rottweiler: “I have too much important stuff to do and see, to sit still for my owner to medicate me. Doesn’t he know how valuable my time is?”

CKVC: If your pet is constantly moving and bouncing off the walls, you can use their intensity to your advantage.

  • Create a competition — If you have multiple pets in your house, gather everyone in the same place and start teasing them with treats. Once they are good and excited, you can give each pet a treat, ensuring the medicated treat goes to the right pet.
  • Create a distraction — Take your bundle of energy on a walk and sneak a medicated treat to them while they are busy taking in their surroundings.

Sonya the Siamese: “I will not be tricked into putting a substance in my body that I do not sanction. You cannot make me!”

CKVC: Some pets are adamant about not taking pills, and you will need to find other ways to get them medicated.

  • Ask us — Ask our American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA)-accredited team at Cherry Knolls Veterinary Clinic to see if your pet’s medication can be given another way. We may be able to give your pet a long-acting shot or a liquid as opposed to a pill. Also, some medications can be compounded so that you can administer them topically, or to give them a better flavor.
  • Crush the pill — If the medication will not lose potency or effectiveness by being crushed, you can make the pill into a powder, and mix the substance in peanut butter or anchovy paste that you spread on your pet’s paws. Many pets, especially cats, do not like being dirty, and will groom away the medicated substance until all traces are gone.

Petey the Pekingese: “I will not willingly take any medication in any way. No thanks!”

CKVC: If your pet simply will not willingly take their medication, you may need to pill them to get them the treatment they need. Follow these steps:

  • Grasp your pet’s head — Grasp your pet’s head from the back, using your non-dominant hand.
  • Hold your pet’s medication — Hold your pet’s medication in your dominant hand, between your thumb and index finger.
  • Tilt your pet’s head back — Cats will usually open their mouth when you tilt their head back, but dogs have a stronger jaw and will need more effort.
  • Open your pet’s mouth — If your pet’s mouth did not open when you tilted their head back, use your middle finger to open their lower jaw.
  • Administer the pill — Place the pill as far back on their tongue as possible.
  • Close your pet’s mouth — Quickly close your pet’s mouth, and gently massage their throat to make them swallow.

Medicating your pet does not have to be stressful if you follow our advice. However, if you are still having trouble medicating your pet, do not hesitate to contact our team at Cherry Knolls Veterinary Clinic.