Your healthy puppy bounces around with great energy and has a clean bill of health from the vet, so why worry about treatment for eyes, ears, skin or pilling? Even healthy puppies require quite a bit of preventive care, including puppy pills for intestinal parasites and medications to prevent fleas, ticks and heartworm.
And let’s face it, puppies can be roughnecks who injure themselves during play. During his first year, my German shepherd Magic needed antibiotics twice—the first when he tackled a rock and needed stitches on one paw and the second time after he snagged and tore off a dew claw.
Routine heartworm or flea pills often are flavored so puppies take them like treats. Pilling with non-flavored medicines can be trickier and can risk your fingers. Pilling requires the pup to open its mouth so you can place the capsule or tablet on the back of the tongue and then encourage the dog to swallow. Larger puppies are easier to pill because you have a good-size muzzle to grasp. Little pups and short-muzzled breeds can wiggle and require extra hands for the dog to cooperate.
How to Give Your Puppy Tablets
An extra pair of hands can help with wiggly puppies. One person holds the dog while the other opens its mouth and pops in the pill. If you don’t have help, wrap the youngster in a blanket with only the head exposed. For larger puppies, kneel on the floor and place the dog between your legs facing out. That way the dog can't squirm away and you’ve got two hands to manage its jaws.
Most dogs have incredible jaw strength that makes it difficult to lever the mouth open against its will. You might be able to force a puppy’s mouth open but could easily hurt it. Instead, prompt the pup to open wide on its own.
- Place the palm of one hand over the pup's face and muzzle so that the thumb on one side and middle finger on the other fit behind the upper canine (long) tooth on each side.
- Tilt its head back so it's looking at the ceiling.
- Gently press the pup's lips against it teeth to encourage it to open its mouth. Or, slip one finger inside its mouth and gently press the roof of its mouth and the dog will open wide.
- Then use your other hand to push the pill to the back of its tongue, quickly close its mouth, and stroke its throat until it swallows.
- Have a squirt bottle of water handy to give your pup a quick drink afterward so you’re sure the pill goes down and doesn’t stick in its throat.
A pill syringe available at most pet supply stores, works well for some owners who don't want to risk putting their fingers in the pup's mouth. Your veterinarian can demonstrate its safe use so you won't hurt the back of your dog's throat.
Hiding Medicine in Treats
Hiding medication in treats works very well with dogs that tend to gulp food whole. Check with your veterinarian first, though, because some drugs should not be mixed with certain foods.
- Use a chunk of cheese, a dab of peanut butter, or anything you're sure the dog will eat in one swallow.
- Mixing medicine in the whole bowl of food isn't recommended, because the pup may not be properly medicated if it doesn't eat it all at once. Some smart canines learn to eat around the medicine.
- Unless the medication is a time-release treatment that's supposed to dissolve slowly, the pill can be crushed and mixed into a strong-tasting treat or a dab of canned food. Use the bowl of a spoon to powder the pill and combine with a mouthful of canned food. This may not work for some bitter medications because the bad taste will be spread throughout the food.
- If you're hiding medication in treats, be sure to offer the treats before meals to ensure every bit is eaten. Your veterinarian or pharmacist may also be able to compound the medication into a tasty form the puppy takes like a treat.
Following any treatment, reward your puppy with positive attention. Give your dog lots of praise and play your dog's favorite game so that it associates the activity with good things. That should help make the medication go down even more smoothly in the future.