Giving your dog medication orally or topically can be stressful for both you and your dog. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Our dog Ruby has a severe allergy to yeast (naturally occurring skin kind, not feeding her too many baked goods kind) and we have to give her A LOT of medication so we have had plenty of practice.
You can’t give your dog their required medication if they run away to hide! And if they are in pain or have a negative association to the medication they are not likely to want anything to do with it or you. Remember that your dog won’t understand that you are trying to help them to get better. The medication might taste bad or the application of the topical agent may feel uncomfortable and they could be feeling sick or in pain.
That’s why it is so important to make giving oral or topical medication as fun, rewarding and as painless as possible. And to do that you need your dog to come to you. Do NOT chase your dog or force the medication on them. There are plenty of better ways which I will list for you below.
Free will . . .
1. Never chase your dog to give medication (unless you are using this as a fun game and your dog likes it)
2. Do not force your dog to take it
3. Give medication when your dog is calm and relaxed
4. Have your dog come to you!
5. If your dog runs away to hide, wait them out
6. Create a fun medication routine
7. Or mix up the medication routine to keep your dog engaged
8. Reward your dog by playing their favourite game before AND after the medication
9. Use a muzzle if needed when applying topical treatments
Disguises . . .
10. Hide the medication in a piece of sausage
11. Hide the medication in a piece of cooked chicken
12. Hide the medication in a spoonful of peanut butter
13. Hide the medication in their dinner
14. Hide the medication in the contents of a food toy
15. Give the medication reward in the middle of a game
16. Give medication-free rewards before and after the medication filled one so your dog doesn’t notice
Distractions . . .
Distractions are a great way to make the taking of the medication fun or so your dog doesn’t even know they are taking the medication in the first place! Play the following games and give your dog a treat laced with the medication (examples above) as the reward for the game.
17. Play hide n’ seek
18. Play the touch game
19. Practice your recall
20. Play a chase game and get “caught” by your dog
21. Practice high fives
22. Teach your dog a trick like to spin!
23. Or weave between your legs
What about applying a topical antibiotic or changing a dressing?
24. While they are eating dinner
25. While eating a food toy
26. When licking a yummy treat from a food mat
27. While snuggling on the couch
28. While receiving a calming massage
29. While being brushed (if they like that of course!)
A note about resource guarding . . .
Many of these suggestions include food as a vehicle to distract your dog or to disguise the medication. If your dog has food aggression or resource guarding tendencies not all of these suggestions will be appropriate for your dog.
I do NOT recommend approaching your dog while they are eating in any case, but especially not when you will be giving medications. If your dog is safe to take food from your hand then you can still give them a disguised food treat but you could also consider some of these alternatives:
30. Drop the laced food treat on the ground
31. Throw the laced food treat to your dog