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How to Get your Cat or Dog to Swallow / Take Tablets and Pills
Most dog or cat owners at some time have had the challenge of getting their beloved pet to swallow a tablet, whether for worming purposes, antibiotics or regular medicine such as heart tablets. Now many of these tablets are described on the packaging as being "Palatable", but clearly no-one thought to ask the pets what they thought was "palatable", and from my experiences I can only assume it must be a human taster coming up with this description, or a very hungry pet. Also, what I will say, is that trying to wrap the tablet in slices of ham, chicken etc is not overly successful, as it is far too easy for the pet to simply remove the tablet and eat the meat. The methods below will be far more reliable.
Having seen numerous lacerations and nearly lost fingers on fellow pet owners who have tried in vain to get a tablet down their pet's throat without ending up in Accident and Emergency themselves, I have decided to share my tips for success without the need for bandages and plasters afterwards. These methods will hopefully reduce the stress levels for both you and your pets, and you should not end up needing to retrieve "Fluffy" from the top of the wardrobe, nor drag your reluctant pooch out from under the rose bush in the back garden at the sight of a packet of tablets appearing out of the kitchen drawer.
The Easy Way
The truly easy ways to get your pets to take tablets are if you can get the pet to eat the tablet themselves without your involvement. The best way to achieve this is to put the tablet in something irresistably tasty to your pet, and in such a way that they cannot eat the good bits and leave the semi-chewed tablet in a gooey blob on the floor.
Some of the best and most successful foods to hide the tablets in are as follows:
1) Marmite Bovril or Vegemite. Most cats love Marmite, and most dogs will at least love Bovril, and possibly Marmite too. First try a taste test on your pet with just the Marmite etc, and if they like it you can progress to the point where you grind up your worm tablet into a very small amount of the product and simply let them lick it up themselves. In the event the tablet is a medicinal tablet such as a heart tablet, then it is best to leave it whole rather than breaking it up.
2) Cream Cheese, e.g. Philadelphia, is another popular favourite, and the same method as above applies.
3) Unsalted Butter, easy to hide a tablet in, and slips nicely down the pets throat, especially in the case of dogs who usually wolf it down without even chewing it to find the tablet inside. Likewise you can grind the tablet up and mix it with the butter before offering it to your cat. If all else fails smear it around the cats face and she will wash it off complete with the tablet powder inside.
4) Cheddar Cheese,this can be used either solid by pushing the tablet into the middle of the lump of cheese, or if you have a particularly clever pet who will still find the tablet and leave it behind after consuming the cheese, try melting the cheese in your microwave for 10-15 seconds until it goes soft. Then place your tablet or ground up pill in the gooey cheese and using a teaspoon keep folding the soft cheese over the tablet until it starts to go firm again as it cools. At this point your dog will probably guzzle down the cheese encrusted tablet without a second thought, and your cat will no doubt take a bit longer, but will usually eat the cheese quite contentedly and leave feeling she has been given a rare treat. In the case of the cats it is probably best to grind up the tablet before adding to the melted cheese.
5) Pill Poppets, are a soft pliable treat that many vets sell. These are quite expensive, but whatever ingredients they make them with seem to make them delicious to pets. The advantage to these is that you can mould them around the tablet and in most cases the pet will happily eat them, although the best success seems to be with dogs.
6) Tuna, is good for hiding ground up tablets in as it has a very strong smell which masks the smell of any tablet. Bear in mind that in the case of cats they have no sense of taste, and are guided purely by smell, which is why if your cat is ill and refuses to eat, especially if it has a bad cold or flu, a strong smelling food such as Tuna is usually recommended to tempt them back to eating. Likewise, warming up any food intensifies the smell of it for your cat, which is another reason you are advised not to keep pet food in the fridge as your cat won't like it nearly as much. Most dogs love Tuna too, so this is a good all round way of persuading your pets to take their tablets, and is a product you will probably have in your kitchen cupboard anyway.
7) Meat Paste, any kind of processed meat paste that you would normally use for your sandwiches such as beef paste, salmon paste, chicken paste etc. Treat tablets the same way as advised earlier.
The Hard Way!
Okay, so you have tried all of the above, your dog or cat is having none of it and simply refuses to eat the treats on offer with the carefully hidden tablets or pills within. Now comes plan B, which is the "hands on" approach.
1) Wrap your cat completely up in a large towel leaving only the head exposed, and making sure the paws (and claws) are firmly contained within the towel itself. Sitting down place this "bundle" under your left arm next to your hip and use your left hand to gently hold on to the scruff of your cat's neck to prevent her struggling to escape from the towel. With the tablet in your right hand, gently use the same forefinger and thumb to prise open your cats mouth, then in one quick deft movement use your index finger to pop the tablet as far back in the cats mouth as you can, (to the point your finger is right at the back of the cats throat behind the "gag reflex"). Immediately hold the cat's mouth gently closed and slightly raised, then rub her throat on the outside for a few moments. In this brief time she will have swallowed the tablet, in fact in most cases the tablet will have automatically been swallowed at the point you inserted it rapidly to the back of the throat, but the latter exercise of holding the mouth closed and rubbing the throat is a precaution in case you didn't push the tablet back far enough.
2) Use a similar method for your dog, although the wrapping in a towel will probably not be relevant unless you have a very small dog. Much of the time it will be just as easy to have a spare pair of hands in the form of a helper to stand behind the dog to prevent it backing away when you prise open the mouth to insert the tablet. If you are on your own try to do this in front of a wall so the dog cannot try to walk backwards.
3) Most vets sell "Pill Poppers", which look a little bit like a plastic syringe with a small clip at the end for holding the tablet. These are quite clever little gadgets and will ensure the safety of your fingers. The idea is to place the tablet in the small clip at the end of the "syringe". You then hold your pet, either in your arms, in a towel, or with help, and prise open the mouth from the sides either with your fingers or using the "Pill Popper" itself whilst holding the scruff of the neck (only in the case of cats). Finally you quickly insert the end of the pill popper to the back of the pet's mouth, depress the plunger and remove. This action will have literally "popped" the tablet to the back of the pet's throat much like your finger did in step 1) of this section.
If all of the above have still not worked then your local vets will usually get one of the nurses to administer tablets such as wormers for you free of charge, although you will have to pay for the tablets and of course will have the added hassle of taking your pet into the vets especially. This is not very practical if your pet is on regular medication, so my advice is to perservere until one of the above works for you.