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You can ask all the pet Pawrents in the world what they admire most about their cat or dog and not a single one of them would say…
“I love how they swallow their pills without a fight!”
And, that’s not because pets put up a fight every time they have to take a pill.
But, because you need to come up with creative ways to make them swallow their meds without wasting a ton of pills or hours looking for where they’ve hidden.
Well, it is what it is.
The drugs, no matter how bitter or chalky, help keep them healthy and you want your fur babies to be healthy and happy.
So how do you get a difficult or uncooperative dog or cat to swallow a pill? What are some creative ways you can get their meds into their system without them knowing what’s going on?
In this article, I’ll show you 5 simple, creative, and effective ways you can get your pet to swallow their meds, but before we do that, let’s see why it is often so difficult to give pets bitter-tasting pills.
3 reasons why it is so difficult to give bitter-tasting pills to pets.
1. They leave a bad taste.
Bitter-tasting meds or pills often leave an awful taste in the mouth hours later.
Yes! You cannot just fill a dog or cat’s mouth with water and toss the pill in there for them to swallow.
However, if your pet refuses to take a pill, it is because you’re making them taste it – after all, they swallow sweetened syrups without a fight.
Once your pet has tasted a bitter pill and, of course, hates the taste, they’ll avoid anything that looks like a pill.
So what do you do? Force them to take it?
2. You can try forcing it, but…
Hunting down your pet with a pill in your hand is daunting and unnerving. Though you might succeed in forcing your cat or dog to swallow a bitter pill, it’ll likely make them defensive and this might earn you a bite or scratches.
You never want to make your pet feel cornered. They used to be wild animals, remember? And, when an animal (human inclusive) feels they have nowhere to escape, they’ll turn and face the ‘attacker.’
Pulling your pet from under the bed, chasing and cornering them doesn’t end well, especially with cats.
3. Negative repercussions even if it works.
Fighting your pet to get the pill down their throat is far from pleasant. However, it could very well affect future interactions between you two.
If you force your dog or cat’s mouth to insert a bitter-tasting pill, a time will come when they won’t let you touch their mouth area.
And, if you cannot touch your pet’s mouth, you cannot brush their teeth, inspect their mouth for oral sores, or clean tartar from their teeth. And this will likely translate to difficulty dealing with the vet when his/her mouth needs to be examined.
So, how can you make a bitter-tasting pill go down your pet’s throat without creating animosity between both of you?
There are several tricks that will muffle that horrible taste and even make your pet look forward to taking meds, but you must do these 4 things before attempting any of them.
4 Things you must do before pilling an uncooperative dog or cat.
1. Ask for alternatives.
Wait… how do you even know that the pill you want to give your dog or cat is bitter in the first place?
By asking your vet!
Before attempting the tricks listed here for pilling an uncooperative dog or cat that is refusing medications, make sure there is no alternative to the bitter pill – like a sweet-tasting syrup.
It’s far easier to pill or medicate a cat or dog by yourself when there’s a sweeter alternative. However, some drugs just don’t have an alternative, but it is worth asking nonetheless.
Besides, the type of medication will determine which of the creative ways you’ll use to make our cat or dog take their pill(s).
Some methods rely on breaking or grinding the pills into smaller pieces. However, this can reduce the effectiveness of certain types of pet medication.
Keppra (a seizure medication), amoxicillin, or clindamycin, for instance, should never be broken into pieces.
And some drugs should only be taken on an empty stomach or without certain food (dairy products like cheese).
Your Vet will be able to advise the best way to get your dog to take his specific medication.
2. Take a Deep Breath.
So you’ve confirmed that there is no alternative or the pill is the most effective treatment option available.
Take a very deep breath. It is going to be okay.
Although the experience is far from fun and interesting, getting tense will only make it worse. That’s because dogs and cats can sense our mood, when you become tense they know something is up and every one of your actions will only look sneaky – they hate sneaky behavior.
There are many options you can try, and though you might fail a couple of times, once you find what works for you and your pet you’ll have smooth sailing each time you have to give your pet a pill in the future.
3. Your pet shouldn’t see you open the pill bottle.
Have you noticed that your pet will come running towards you when you rattle the kibble container, open a can of delicious wet food, or are eating Cheetos?
This happens because your pet has associated the sound of these items with something enjoyable.
This is a good example of a positive association. However, your dog or cat can also form a negative one by associating the sound of the pill packet or pill bottle to bitter-tasting meds that he/she hates so much.
This association is stronger if you medicate the dog daily.
As soon as your dog or cat hears the sound of the pill bottle or packet being opened, they know there’s a pill somewhere and will be suspicious of everything you do next in the hope of figuring out where you hide the pill so they can avoid it or spit it out.
Some pets will even run and hide once they hear this sound, especially cats who are really good at hiding.
You can avoid this by opening the pill away from your pet which will increase your chances of succeeding.
4. Wash your hands thoroughly.
Dogs and cats have a sense of smell that is 100 times more powerful than ours.
With this powerful sense of smell, they’re able to detect scents that a human nose cannot perceive.
That’s why dogs are used to track down explosives, drugs, and other contrabands – they’d use cats too, but cats don’t work for humans… it’s usually the other way round.
These super sniffers can detect the smell of medications too.
Once your pet has associated the smell of the medicine with the bitter-tasting or chalky rock they receive, they’re more likely to figure out where you’ve hidden it or fight to get away from you.
Ensure you clean your hands thoroughly after handling your pet’s medication to get rid of the odor on your hands.
So, what are the creative ways you can sneak the medication inside your pet’s guts?
5 Creative Ways to Make Your Pet Swallow Bitter-Tasting Pills.
1. Mix the pill in with your pet’s meal.
This one is pretty obvious. All you have to do is drop the pill inside your pet’s meal and you’re done.
But doing this (and succeeding) involves a delicate art.
If you only feed your pet dry food, then this might not work as expected. That’s because the pill will be easier to spot since it stands out from the kibble.
However, if your pet likes to vacuum their kibble and you use a slow feeder to slow him/her down, then by all means allow them to gobble up the meal with the medication for the few days they have to be medicated – they won’t even notice it.
If your pet loves wet food you can dip the pill in the food, but ensure that you pile enough food on it afterward to hide it.
Although this is the easiest solution for a dog or cat that hates to take his/her medication, many of them are smart enough to eat around the pill and lick every last piece of food but not the pill.
Don’t worry, we have other creative ways to trick your pet into taking their medicine.
2. Insert the bitter pill inside tasteless gel caps.
Pets hate bitter-tasting pills. Those producing their medicines know this. So why do they surround the pills in a bitter-tasting coating?
It’s almost like they’re setting you up with your pet.
This can be resolved by inserting the pill inside tasteless gelatin capsules. These are hollow, tasteless, and odorless pills that can be filled with whatever chalky, bitter- or sour-tasting medication your dog won’t take to mask the taste.
If the pill is circular, oval, or any other that won’t fit inside the capsule, simply grind it/them with a pill crusher then turn the powder into the tasteless capsule.
You just open the capsule in two halves and fit the medication in there, then press the halves back together. What’s great about gelatin capsules is that you can fit in more than one tablet in the capsule.
Giving your pet one pill will be easier than giving 2 or 4 differently, don’t you think?
3. Hide the pill in a treat.
All pets love treats.
And when it comes to sneaking a pill into your pet’s belly, an irresistible treat is the way to go. A malleable food treat is a great way to give your cat or dog a treat. All you have to do is conceal the pill in the treat and toss it to them.
You don’t have to fight them and your hands are far away from their sharp fangs.
However, the success of this method depends on your ability to properly conceal the pill in the treat because if your pet tastes the pill he/she will reject it.
You can hide the bitter-tasting meds in a pill pocket, peanut butter, marshmallows, hot dog pieces, liver pate, chicken or turkey hearts, sardine, or thick yogurt.
4. Pretend that’s what you’re eating.
If your cat or dog loves to have a taste of whatever you’re eating, then you can use their obsession with human food to your advantage.
You can conceal the pill in a pill pocket as in the previous step and just set it aside on your plate – you can even smear a bit of what you’re eating on it.
This doesn’t work if you just offer them the pill pocket as soon as your pet walks up to you and tries to hypnotize you with their eyes.
Ignore them for about a minute or so. This will ensure that they’re really itching to taste what’s on your plate.
Let them just taste the spoon or a very little piece of the meal.
Then scoop your meal along with the pill pocket and offer it to your pet. As soon as they mouth it, scoop another and offer it to them.
Your pet will feel so lucky that he/she will quickly gulp the pill pocket in their mouth so they can receive the one you’re offering before you take it away.
5. Administer pill by hand.
Most of the tips for getting a difficult cat or dog to swallow a bitter pill involve hiding the pill in food.
However, if your pet is refusing to eat, is too sick to eat, or just uncooperative, then you’re going to have to force that pill down your pet’s throat.
It’s easier than it sounds and while you can do it by hand, it’ll be much easier to use a pill gun. A pill gun is like a syringe, the only difference is that it allows you to shoot medication into the back of your pet’s mouth without risking your fingers.
What you have to do is hold your pet’s mouth open with their head tilting upwards as if you’re performing a dental inspection. It helps if your hands do not smell like drugs so that your pet will be calm.
Keep the mouth open with one hand and with the other hand reach for the pill gun and target the center of their throat.
Shoot and then hold their mouth close.
While holding your pet’s mouth, blow on their nose and gently rub their throat to stimulate swallowing.
You can tell that they’ve swallowed with the up and down movements in their throat. Now, let go and offer your pet a treat (ice cream or yogurt) to associate what you just did with something positive and, maybe, wash the pill down.
This method is by far the easiest and perfect rick to get your dog or cat to swallow a bitter-tasting pill (you can still encase it/them in the tasteless gelatin capsules) even if they’re refusing to eat or take meds.
If you have a wiggler or scratcher, you may need a second pair of hands and a towel to keep everyone safe.
Remember to treat afterward.
Found any other creative ways to make an uncooperative pet swallow their pill?
Share it in the comment.