Whole Dog Journal's Blog November 16, 2016

Medicate Your Dogs One at a Time

Posted at 04:40PM - Comments: (18)

Back in June I wrote a blog post about how many ways I screwed up when having to medicate more than a dozen dogs at the same time (/blog/Problems-with-Pills-for-Dogs-21494-1.html). Some of you generously offered your own mistakes and tips for preventing them.

One of the things I goofed on was giving one dog her pills in the presence of another dog. I was dog-sitting my friend’s two Chihuahuas: 10-pound S’Mores, who needs blood pressure medication and a diuretic, and Samson, who weighed less than four pounds and was about six months old at the time. S’Mores spit out one of her pills, and Samson dived for it, swallowing it faster than I could grab him.

Partners in swallowing things they shouldn't (when their owners mess up). Sigh.

I had to call their veterinarian – who is also MY veterinarian – and confess to my mistake, and ask if there was something I should do; make Samson vomit, perhaps?

Thank goodness, the vet thought the dose was low enough that the one pill wouldn’t cause Samson any harm. But I started using a baby gate to make sure that only the dog who was supposed to receive the pill was in the room, until it was clear the pill had gone down the chute, so to speak.

I also confessed my error to my friend. She told me that it was indeed a challenge at her house, because she also has a third dog, Lena, who receives a strong pain medication each day, and who is a master at spitting pills out.

My friend knows her dogs well, and is careful, but she wasn’t using the “baby gate” technique I used after my mishap – though she is now.

Last Saturday morning, she was giving her two elderly dogs their meds, when 75-pound Lena spit out her Tramadol pill, and four-pound Samson dived for it and gobbled it down. My friend said she couldn’t believe how fast he was. Just as quickly, she called our local emergency veterinary clinic, and asked what she should do. The receptionist asked what the medicine was, what the dose was, and how much Samson weighs, and put her on hold for a minute. Then she came back and said that the veterinarian on call said she should bring Samson in, immediately. Mind you, the emergency clinic is a good 30 minutes away. And the closest clinic wouldn’t open for another 30 minutes.

After my mishap just days before with Woody (who swallowed a too-small ball), my friend had just bought a new bottle of hydrogen peroxide to keep on hand for emergencies like this. She asked the ER receptionist, “Should I make him vomit up the pill first? I have hydrogen peroxide.” But the receptionist told her no, she should just bring Samson to the vet, fast.

My friend said she told the receptionist she was at least a half hour from being able to get Samson to any vet; surely she should make him vomit first? And the receptionist told her, “No, it’s risky.”

My friend called me on speaker as she was hurriedly dressing, telling me all that had transpired. I jumped on my laptop and started Googling; was there a reason she shouldn’t make Samson vomit up a Tramadol pill? I was aware that there are certain things that you should not make a dog vomit – anything caustic, for example, or petroleum-based substances. I couldn’t find any reason that vomiting up the medication would be contraindicated, but neither I nor Google are veterinarians, so…

She drove Samson to the local vet, arriving a few minutes before they opened, and started banging on the door. Thankfully, they opened the door and the vet saw Samson before he had a chance to put on his white coat. He asked, “Did you make him vomit?” She said, “No! The emergency clinic told me not to!”

He said, “Well, that’s what we are going to do!” He whisked Samson into the back, and gave him an oral dose of hydrogen peroxide – not the injectable morphine-based medication that the ER gave Woody days before, to make him vomit up the ball. Within minutes, Samson vomited up the medication, but given the time elapsed (about 40 minutes at that point), the pill was dissolved. Given the high dosage of the pill, the veterinarian also recommended giving Samson some activated charcoal, to help absorb the medication and prevent it from being absorbed in his bloodstream, and subcutaneous fluids, to help dilute the effects of the medication and push it through his excretory system as quickly as possible (pee it out).

Long story short: Samson is fine. My friend’s bill:

$56 office visit. $25 for inducing vomiting. $15 for charcoal. $25 for the fluids. A bargain, compared to Woody’s visit for (sort of) the same thing (throw up what you shouldn’t have swallowed!).

My friend was annoyed with herself (as I was with myself, days earlier!) for failing to control the situation – and for not yet pulling the trigger on veterinary insurance for Samson. She and her husband had been discussing the cost just that morning, and the event stiffened her resolve to fit it into their budget.

Samson in his crate.

She’s also crating Samson at pill time.

Learn from us! 


Comments (18)

I have a 11 lb Chihuahua that has to take both thyroid pills and occasionally her tramadol pill which is by far the most horrible tasting pill there is (according to her). I give both pills in a pill pocket that I have cut into 4 pieces. I use tweezers to pick up the tramadol pill and stuff into the 1/4 piece of pill pocket without my finger ever touching the pill. I have found that if I touch the tramadol pill and then disguise it, Pepsi has tasted the pill from my finger and no way will she take it. So tweezers it is. I have tried everything to disguise the pills. Her nose and taste buds are too good for me to fool. Dogs aren't dumb. I can't use cheese or other products as they are higher in fat and she can't have any extra fat in her diet. Pill pockets work for us :-) :-) :-)

Posted by: Pepsi's Mom | November 20, 2016 11:51 AM    Report this comment

I would like to add that caution should be used when medicating people as well. I had my elderly mother living with me and was helping her with her medication when she dropped one of her heart pills. One of my dogs was nearby and he almost got to it before I did--MY heart almost stopped because I couldn't have left my mother alone to take the dog to the emergency vet!
After that I made sure to secure the dogs in another room before giving Mom her medication and I also make sure none are nearby whenever I take any medicaton myself--just in case I drop something.

Posted by: PJKutscher | November 19, 2016 8:47 AM    Report this comment

I had tried every trick in the book including pill poppers which unfortunately don't work for the larger pills. I would wrap the pill in cheese, meat, anything soft and do the here is the unmedicated piece first and he would scarf down the piece with the pill. I would give him a second piece without the pill which he would eat too. Later I would find the pill somewhere in the house. Even tho I would look all thru his mouth. He was really good at that. Even when I pushed the pill down his throat. I started to buy plain gel caps and crush the pill and put it in the capsule. Since it had no taste he would swallow it. Problem solved.....most of the time.

And also I never got around to buying insurance. When he got sick I maxed out my credit cards and took a chunk out of my retirement. Now I am in financial ruin and can't pay my bills. Lesson learned. Buy insurance.

Posted by: Knyles | November 18, 2016 11:45 AM    Report this comment

One of my dogs had a thyroid medication that had to be on an empty stomach (forgot to ask when I got it so googled. Next visit he asked how it was going and was she taking it with her meal ok. Looked horrified and dived on the computer when I said empty stomach and came back saying that was right) One lot of antibiotic she refused. Was allowed to be crushed so when I crushed it in the cat food I thought she would have it. refused to eat and wouldn't touch cat food for more than 3 months. I so wished I had one of the pill poppers the vet used on the cat.

Posted by: db | November 18, 2016 2:38 AM    Report this comment

One warning when you are looking for vet insurance. Make sure the deductable is for one year. I'm embarrassed to say that I was confused about that when we bought ours, and now because of a condition which would be considered pre-existing I cannot switch. We've spent a bundle in the last year, coming in right under the $200 deductable we chose, each visit.

Posted by: Alice R. | November 17, 2016 2:41 PM    Report this comment

I agree with Maisie about having the second piece of cheese ready in front of the dog's nose (or whatever you are using to disguise the pill). Works every time.

Posted by: shorthairmadness | November 17, 2016 2:36 PM    Report this comment

I've been using small amounts of braunschwieger to smear on pills and supplements for over 25 years. I place the covered pills on top of their food and the dogs don't seem to notice anything amiss.

Posted by: Bobbi Summerfield | November 17, 2016 1:11 PM    Report this comment

Doesn't anyone just manually pill their dogs anymore? Nothing like pushing a pill down the throat and immediately shoving a treat in their face to make them swallow to assure that said pill stays down. Some dogs are harder to pill than others, but a little butter on the pill helps it slide down. If they really struggle, it's time for some husbandry training.

Posted by: MeToo | November 17, 2016 12:42 PM    Report this comment

One dog I had took meds for seizures twice a day. I'd put the pills in a small piece of folded cheese. Kali knew about it but liked the cheese. Years later, her sister needed meds for her thyroid. Those went in Joy's food. Since I always feed my dogs in separate areas, that is no problem. The girls' brother was a different matter. In food, he'd eat everything but the pill. As a yummy treat - buried in cheese, peanut butter, etc, he'd eat around the pill and spit the pill out. I'd have to pry open his locked jaws and push the pill into his throat then hold his mouth closed. Now my only non- Jack Russell in more than 30 years is taking Fluoxetine daily. I give it to him in his food. His bowl looks totally different from the other dogs' bowls. I make sure the other 2 bowls aren't close to Chance's when I put his meds in the food and all 3 dogs are crated while I'm doing their morning food. When they see me pick up one of their bowls all 3 zoom into their crates because breakfast is coming.

Posted by: Cindie M | November 17, 2016 11:42 AM    Report this comment

I guess I've been lucky in one respect: I've never had a dog who would willingly snatch up a pill. More time has been spent trying to get them down, with the other happy it isn't them getting the pill. So I learned to disguise pills with something good. However, you never know when you'll come across a new pup who will eat anything! Taking precautions is good, until you're sure the pill is down. Thanks for the reminder, and all the suggestions.

Posted by: MJC | November 17, 2016 11:00 AM    Report this comment

I agree with all the management techniques mentioned here but no one has talked about the dangers of using too much hydrogen peroxide. It will actually burn the tissue as it goes down to the point where it can be seen on a radiograph, so please use the bare minimum amount to do the job.

Posted by: mastiffsmile | November 17, 2016 10:05 AM    Report this comment

The hint about using softened cheese is one I use whenever I give pills but I go one step further, I use three globs of cheese with the pill in the middle one, that anticipation for yet another treat guarantees the the disguised pill is readily swallowed to make room for the next. I frequently have up to five dogs at my house and so they line up and each get a little cheese. They sit quietly awaiting their turn while the one who needs the pill gets his. If one gets too anxious I put a fist to my chest and that is the signal to sit back down and wait your turn.

Posted by: Maggie's Mom | November 17, 2016 9:50 AM    Report this comment

Our foster dogs live in our home. We accommodate as much as we can. Just wanted to support the inducing of hydrogen peroxide as a fist step if you cannot get to the vet in time. I have had over 1,000 dogs come through our home and placed placed the majority of them. Some were to sick or injured when we took them into our rescue. We have two dogs in a foster home, one that had to have an eye enuculated and is almost blind in her other. The one is both blind and deaf. The Third one is 14 and has cancer. I gave daily insulin injections and dosed for Thyroid My 32 year old horse has Crushing and is medicated daily and the other has thyroid issues and is medicated daily. I cook my own food for our foster dogs and we grow our own hay. My senior dog is going on 15 and was found on the side of the road with a broken leg 12 years ago. I have hundreds of stories of rescues that we have taken in and placed after complete medical workups, and testing, fixed broken legs and had to have several amputations. One of our fosters has completed obedience training and is in his third series of agility. Yeah, my husband screwed up and left a box of chocolates within reach of a eight pound Chihuahua. We set our limit to twelve dogs, not counting puppies that I birthed here. I resent you implication that I am not a good master. P.S. We are a 501c3 nonprofit organization and donate to others organization who provide low cost spay/neuter to low income families. P.P.S I use a little bit of brie cheese to help the pill go done a bit easier. They love it. Hand fed, one at a time. Sorry for the rant, but after all, I think I have done a pretty good job.

Posted by: Judy Babcock | November 17, 2016 9:43 AM    Report this comment

This has probably happened to all of us. A couple of suggestions...I would have asked to speak directly with a vet if at all possible rather than relying on the ER clinic receptionist to relay the question and the answer. And next time we take our dogs to the vet, we should all ask the question: is there any oral medication typically given at home that cannot be vomited up using something like hydrogen peroxide? This is something that would be good to know.

Posted by: westielover | November 17, 2016 9:16 AM    Report this comment

You're absolutely right about giving meds separately. Here's my trick for getting them to swallow a pill. It has worked on all my scotties over time, but it has to be a food-oriented dog that likes cheese (or whatever you choose to use). I take a small piece of cheese and mash it around the pill, then take another piece of plain cheese. I give the first piece while holding the second piece in front of her nose. She will always--I mean always--swallow the first one in a hurry so she can get the second one. And the pill is gone for good.

Posted by: maisie | November 17, 2016 9:10 AM    Report this comment

Tramadol is one of the worst pills, it tastes nasty to dogs, causing them to shake their head and the pill will go flying. I had this happen once, where one of my dogs grabbed the expelled pill and swallowed it quicker than I could grab him. Luckily my vet said to not worry, since it was within range for his weight. But, I now do pill feeding with the use of an exercise pen to separate the old guy from the other two during pilling sessions.

Posted by: Snafam | November 17, 2016 9:09 AM    Report this comment

My husband bought me a box of Chocolates for Christmas one year. And every year since. He hid them on the top back of the sofa in his office. The dog found them and eat half of the box. I immediately dosed with hydrogen peroxide. And then got her to the vet. Some fluids and an anti anxiety pill resolved it with in a couple of hours. We learn so much the hard way.

Posted by: Judy Babcock | November 17, 2016 9:04 AM    Report this comment

Not sure of the problem. I give supplements/medications daily to 9-10 fosters & personal dogs. They're of all sizes, breeds, and temperaments. They get their pills and capsules in dollops of wet food which they wolf down. I dose them serially and even the newcomers quickly learn to wait their turn. Here's what I suspect. That we make problems out of behaviors triggered by the failure of the master to adopt a loving but firm and commanding presence.

Posted by: cosmic | November 17, 2016 8:50 AM    Report this comment

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