Great ReadTips & Tricks

Rocco’s Corner-A Journey on how to give me a pill

Rocco’s Corner  Written and Gracefully Translated by Karen Jorgensen

It’s pill time! Or, “How to fake me out and get me to take my medication.”

Most of you who know me know me as a very well behaved dog.

I hear this all the time at the K-Nine Solutions Training Gym…new clients come in with a dog who is, shall we say, much more energetic than I am, and the humans look over at me sitting obediently on my place cot and think to themselves, “that’s how I want my dog to be…calm, confident, cooperative.”  They see me come over to my dad Eric when I’m called (especially if he’s holding a piece of chicken jerky), they see me sit quietly in “place” while their own dogs thrash about on their leashes, and they see me very gently and politely take treats from an outstretched hand without risk of also removing a finger or two in the process.  I am the perfect gentleman.

Mom and dad love this about me.

It means they can leave their dinner plates out in the open and they know I won’t help myself to whatever is on the menu.

It means I don’t snort down my food so quickly that I then hork it back up onto the living room rug moments later.

It means they can take me on a walk and not worry about me trying to gobble down the dead mouse or squirrel that’s lying in the path along the trail.

I am not a typical dog. I do not swallow first, ask questions later. 

Sometimes mom and dad put my dinner bowl down for me and I just walk away without eating a morsel!

With willpower like Yoda, the force runs strong in me, wouldn’t you agree?

Under normal circumstances, this is a great quality that I possess. It wins me many a compliment and expression of envy from other dog parents – “I wish my dog was that polite! My own dog Monster tries to take my sandwich right out of my hand as I’m lifting it up to my mouth!” They ooh and ahh over my highly sophisticated manners, and sadly shake their heads in frustration at their own dog’s lack of self-control.

Unfortunately, while I might excel in etiquette class, this refined palette of mine can present quite a challenge to navigate around when getting things into me by mouth becomes necessary, as in the case of medications.

Recently, I developed a small abscess in a cyst on my neck, and mom and dad wanted to get the infection under control before taking me to surgery to have it removed. (Apparently they were not amused by my attempts to redecorate the living room by smearing my bleeding wound all over the white couch?  I personally thought it looked rather Pollack-like, but I quickly found myself sporting a purple elastic turtleneck bandage…not my best look. But hey, at least it wasn’t the Cone Of Shame!

After some trips back and forth to the vet, I now have a daily schedule of medication that rivals those of many elderly humans. Currently, I’m taking 8 pills a day! For some dog owners, the number of pills wouldn’t matter.  Whether it was 8 pills or 80, as long as the pills were buried in a bowl of dog food, down the hatch the food and the pills would go. Swallow first, ask questions later…

But that’s not my style.

I prefer to nibble…

To sniff…

To tentatively taste a small morsel of whatever has been placed in my bowl or offered by hand, and perhaps spit it out and re-taste it a couple of times before I fully commit. Where most “normal” dogs may resemble great white sharks when they eat, I prefer to imagine myself more like a hummingbird – taking tiny, dainty bites as if sipping delicately from a flower.  I just love flowers…

Now as you can imagine, this tendency toward pickiness has presented a bit of a challenge to my parents, who have been trying desperately to “disguise” my pills in various recipes.  At first, I didn’t realize what they were doing, and I was just happy to finally be hand-fed dinner by mom, which is soooooo much nicer than having to dirty my nose by eating directly from my bowl!

Initially she made me this delicious mix of chopped-up boiled chicken breasts mixed with cooked white rice (I was having some digestive issues at the time, and had to be on a bland diet).  To make it less likely that I would spit out bits of rice or chicken, she actually blended the two together with a stick blender to make kind of a thick paste that she would then roll into balls to feed me. Yum!!!

I just love chicken…

Unfortunately, the antibiotic I am on tastes horrible, and pretty soon I knew something was up because I only got these little hand-held chicken balls when there was a PILL hiding inside!  So I did what any self-respecting dog would do – I spit it out and ate around the pill! Ha! You can’t fool me, human!

Except then a few days later, mom was cooking up a pot of ground beef on the stove. And I was drooling from the aroma of the meat, and just hoping and praying it was for me, and guess what? It was!!! Happy day!!!  Meatballs!  Yes!! Oh they were tasty…until one day there was something funny about the taste…something recognizable…oh my God it’s that disgusting antibiotic again!! Blech!  Spit it out! Spit it out! Phew, that was close. Wow, why does mom look so frustrated with me???

You’d think she’d be proud of me and my ninja-like ability to sniff out a pill!? I mean, why on earth would she want me to eat something gross like that? She’s always scolding me for trying to lick other dog’s butts because she says that’s gross, which obviously means she’s never actually tried it herself… But these pills, wow, they really are gross with a capital, er, hmm, I don’t really actually know how to spell gross, so just take my word for it.

The other day, she tried giving me a piece of cheese, but once again, thankfully I was able to sniff out the rogue pill stuffed inside!  Phew! Another close call…

What’s strange is that mom has seemed really stressed out lately, especially whenever she tries to give me these little treats. I bet it’s because she’s worried that someone might be trying to hide a pill inside, and she’s afraid I won’t notice it and actually eat the pill! Good thing I can totally sense when she’s stressed, which puts me on high alert so I know that there might be pills coming. Don’t worry mom, I won’t let any nasty old pills get by this sniffer! It’s okay, you don’t have to yell and throw the dishes into the sink – I found the pill! I didn’t eat it! I’m safe!

There would have to be something really stinky hiding the pills if they wanted to fool me into eating them. Something like these delicious little chicken treats that mom suddenly started feeding me… boy oh boy, I could eat these all day!

And it’s been great, because she’s been giving them to me all day long, when I least expect it! She’s been so calm and happy too – I’m glad she realizes that it’s important to give me fun treats all day, instead of boring bowl of my usual food. I love how she’s been tossing the treats up in the air for me to catch – I love games!!!

I don’t even have to chew them, I just gulp them down! This has been so much fun!!!  Believe me, there are definitely no pills hiding in these little buggers – I would find them for sure! And since I just know that there’s nothing but this tasty chicken playdough stuff in these, I’m perfectly happy gobbling them down without a second thought.

Swallow first, ask questions later, I always say!

(It’s a good thing no one in my house knows about the peanut butter trick where they stick a pill in a smear of peanut butter and stick it to the roof of my mouth so I’m forced to lick lick lick until it goes down my throat…now that would just be sneaky.)

Voice of the Trainers:

Remember Rocco’s main points when you are trying to give your dog a pill –

  1. Stay CALM – dogs pick up on our emotions. When we are stressed, they become stressed.
  2. Make it a GAME – instead of only giving the treats when there’s a pill hiding inside, distribute these same treats randomly throughout the day – without any pills – to confuse your dog.  “Oops! You mean that 3rd chicken ball I just dropped in your mouth had a pill inside??”
  3. Try really stinky treats – most dogs have an almost supernatural sense of smell, so try hiding pills in food that can better mask the odor of the medication. The Greenies Pill Pockets and Nutro soft chicken bites worked really well because they have a strong scent and flavor, plus they have the consistency of play dough, which makes it easy to hide a pill inside a tiny little ball that is easily swallowed by your dog.  You want to minimize the chance that your dog will start chewing on it – that’s when they discover the pill!
  4. Try coating the pill in butter or peanut butter – if Fido is still too much of a Sherlock Holmes despite all your best efforts to hide the pills, you might want to coat the pill in a small dab of butter to make it slide down your dog’s throat easily. Or use the trick our Vet uses on her own dog – she opens up her dog’s mouth, and sticks a glop of peanut butter up on the roof of his mouth or the back of his tongue with a pill inside. The dog then has to lick repeatedly to get the peanut butter (and the pill) to go down.
  5. Buy empty gelatin caps at the drugstore – you can also purchase empty gelatin caps from the drug store or online, and fill them with the crushed pills if needed. This is probably the last thing you’d want to try, as it would be rather labor intensive. And make sure that the pills you are giving are okay to be crushed. Some pills are meant to be slow-releasing over time – these usually have a shiny coating on them and say “do not crush or chew” on the label. Check with your Vet.