By Karen A. Soukiasian
The best thing to do if you have a puppy is to start them off early to get them thinking medicine are like rewards for good behavior.
We had an Australian Shepherd that was two years old when we rescued her. When we first rescued her, giving her monthly medications was a battle of wills. Ever try to make an Aussie do something they don’t want to do? They are incredibly intelligent dogs, and you swear they are constantly trying to be one step ahead of you, by reading your mind.
Once we realized, what made SugarBear tick, giving her any medication was a cinch!
First and foremost, stay calm, and speak softly. Your dog will sense your stress and will either run, or fight back. Always praise and reward them when the mission is completed. The faster they cooperate, the more praise and rewards they get.
You should not have to, but, if you need to muzzle your pet, do so for your own safely.
Liquid medications are usually the easiest medications to administer. If your dog won’t willingly open wide and say “Ahhh,” as you pour it down their gullet, you can mix it into or pour it on their food or mix it into a favorite liquid such as chicken broth or even yogurt.
Ask your veterinarian for a syringe (needle less) so you can correctly measure and directly administer it into their mouth. Slide your finger into the back of your dog’s lower lip; almost like you are making them grin. There you will find a small pocket. Gently place the syringe or dropper into the pocket, and squeeze the plunger. Raise your dog’s head slightly, and gently rub under their chin, to make sure they swallowed. Praise, praise, praise them, and give them a special reward.
Eye drops/eye ointments
Who likes to have something dripped or squirted into their eye? No wonder your dog thinks you’re about to torture them!
One-way of successfully achieving this unpleasant task, prepare them ahead of time, by getting them accustomed to having their head affectionately cradled in your arms with your last three fingers of one hand supporting their lower jaw. Dogs learn by association. Associating this gesture as a loving position, should you have to hold them to administer medication to their eyes, they won’t be quite as freaked out, thinking they are in a headlock.
When and if the time comes that they need eye medication, you have leaped the first hurdle, by making them comfortable with having their head held. Before you apply the medication tire your dog out doing something fun. A tired dog is much easier to work with than one that is raring to go!
For eye ointments, use one hand to support your dog’s lower jaw with your last three fingers. With your two free fingers, gently separate their eyelids. Holding the tube parallel to their lower eyelid, gently squeeze a bead of ointment onto the lower lid. Do not let the tube touch their eye! Immediately release your dog’s head, let them blink; then gently massage the upper and lower lids to spread the medication. Praise, praise, praise them, and reward them with a super treat.
For eye drops, follow the same procedure as above, holding the dropper parallel to their opened eye. You won’t have to massage their eye, as their blinking will spread the medication. Praise, praise, praise them, and reward them with a super treat.
Here things get a little trickier. Now is when you have to be smarter and sneakier than your cagey, canine companion. There are a few you can use like pet pillars and pill pockets.
The pet pillar is a tube, with a plunger on one end and a place to insert the pill at the other end. You then insert the tube into the back of your pet’s throat, and hit the plunger.
Hopefully, you will be a good shot, and get it far enough back into your dog’s throat, so that once the pill is shot from the tube into their throat, your dog won’t cough or spit it out.
Pill pockets can be purchased from your veterinarian or local pet store. You stuff the pill into the pocket, and your dog is not supposed to smell the pill, and just swallow it, because the pocket tastes good. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t!
What we found worked best for us, was to find something SugarBear could not resist.
Sugar, like most Aussies, lived to eat. We found whenever we made her believe she was getting something extra special, she would be so excited she’d come running. Little did she know, the only time she got peanut butter, was when it was time to get her pill.
At first we would make her work for it. She might have to follow one command or maybe even three. The harder she worked for it, the more she wanted it. We would have her undivided attention, she’d be so eager to please us. If you didn’t know better, you’d think you were giving her prime rib!
After doing that a few times, all she’d have to do is hear the peanut butter jar being opened, and those pills went down the old gullet on the first gulp. She was so happy to get the peanut butter; she’d swallow it without even knowing she got “pilled.”
Find something soft, like cheese; cream cheese or canned cheese spread, that your puppy or dog can’t resist. We found what worked best was peanut butter.
Make your dog carry out your command; “Sit” is usually a good one. Then give the first dollop “free,” meaning without any pill. One or two commands later, they will be so excited; they’ll be jumping out of their skin for another dollop of peanut butter or cheese spread. Surprise, surprise! One of them will have a pill tucked away in it. Mission accomplished!
Bottom line: Always stay calm when you have give dog medications. If you find either you or your pet is getting too anxious or tense, stop, wait awhile, then try it again. Remember to always praise and reward them. Make them look forward to getting their medication. Positive reinforcement works!
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