09 May 2014

Of Pets and Pills

After a recent vet visit we learned that our dog had an infection and needed a two-week course of antibiotics, two pills per day. Getting a pet to take a pill is not easy, and she's supposed to take these with food, but her appetite has also been iffy lately so coaxing her to eat on command, so to speak, hasn't been easy either.

We tried covering the pill in the usual dog temptations: peanut butter, cheese, even some leftover chicken fat. Either she turned her head away entirely or the pill ended up on the floor. We presume that she can smell the medication hidden within the treat, and the pill is large enough that packing it in food makes a morsel that's too big for the dog to gulp down all at once. Hiding it in her food hasn't gotten much better results.

"Pilling" a dog is no fun and is also quite awkward, but it seemed like the only option. It kind of requires three hands: two to hold the dog's jaws open and a third to lob the pill into the back of the throat, far enough back that the animal can't get it back out again. But I've been home alone on most of the days when the dog needed her morning pill, so I had to do the holding and the throwing. One day this week I tried six times, and each time the pill came back out again.

Later that day I tried to give her a different medication, her monthly heartworm prevention. It comes in the form of a chewy liver-flavored block slightly more than an inch long. I usually break it in half and give it to her from my hand, and it has always been irresistible to her. This time, though, she was still unnerved from my earlier pilling attempts and would not take the medication from my hand; I had to put it on the floor for her to sniff at and eventually pick up with her tongue.

Finally we discovered a lure sufficiently enticing to overcome the smell of the pill and the anxiety of taking it: chicken salad. It can be packed around the pill and is still small enough to slurp off my open palm. The dog has always been nuts about chicken, and the moist consistency allows it to slide down her throat. We still have almost a week left of the medication so we'll need to get more chicken salad to get her to finish taking the pills. Pets may be easier than children, but caring for them is not without its challenges.

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