Dogs and cats vs. pills

Dogs and cats are attracted to the smell and taste of many different things, but pill-flavored pet food isn't one of them. A few, precious pets will voluntarily swallow a pill. Other dogs and cats are willing to ignore the pill if it's masked in food. But at the end of the day, most pets don't like being induced to take pills.

Read on for some tips regarding giving pills to your pet.

Follow the Directions

While some pet owners crush pills and mix them with food, this should never be attempted without first asking a veterinarian. Some formulations rely on the pill or capsule to remain intact to be effective and safe, while other medications are not to be given with food at all. Crushing a pill may also leave a medicinal smell in the room or on your hands that especially sensitive pets will notice.

Escape and Evasion

Treat or no treat, some dogs (and most cats) are having absolutely none of this pill business. At the first rattle of a foil pack, a 90-lb Labrador Retriever may run away and hide in a space where a cat couldn't turn around. Then there's the "safecracker," who skillfully separates food from medicine and holds it for a minute before spitting it out. Pursuing or restraining a distressed pet will only escalate the problem.

The ASPCA recommends gradual conditioning for highly resistant pets, where the ratio of good experiences to bad experiences is high: "For every real pill you give him, he should receive a minimum of 20 'treat pills,'"1 although not all at one time.

End the pilling routine once and for all

The No-Pill Option

Giving pills to your pet can become a struggle and/or result in missed doses. Some medicines, such as antibiotics that treat common bacterial skin infections, may not work as effectively if doses are given sporadically or incompletely.

The antidote to this challenge requires no food tricks, furniture moving, or undignified wrestling matches. Some veterinary medicines are formulated as chewable tablets, oral drops or even injections. Injections need to be administered in a clinic, but they may last longer than an oral dose. This is especially helpful for administering antibiotics during a brief period of treatment.

In any case, you should always let your veterinarian know if you have serious difficulty pilling your dog or cat so that they can work with you to find the best solution.