How to get your dog to swallow that pill

I’m sharing this little tidbit because when I googled there was no sign of this idea. It came from our veterinarian. Perhaps it will be universally known someday but for the moment would seem to be a well-kept secret.

Let’s go back in time, to last weekend.

Sam threw up and stopped eating. She was obviously sick.

We took her to the emergency veterinarian hospital. While we were freaking out at her condition, concerned that at her advanced age, she might be close to death, we were confronted with the signage at the hospital that states their priorities.

The sign helped us adjust our expectations, recognizing that while our vomiting dog might be scary to us, it’s not as hazardous as some things one can imagine.

That was at the beginning of the week.

We talked to the vet on the telephone without ever meeting him. I suppose this is normal life in the pandemic, although Sam our dog did get to meet him in the examination room.

Over the telephone and through email, we saw a preliminary diagnosis, the results of the bloodwork, leading to a series of options.

The question we’re always asking ourselves is: who is this for? Are we genuinely seeking to make the dog feel better? or are we torturing her because we can’t part with her, and insist on prolonging her life? While we might ask similar questions with our human loved ones, what’s different is that the animal doesn’t understand the rationale. Where I could submit to the agonies of chemo or radiation or any sort of treatment, why put a dog through such torments, if they don’t know why? it will seem like torture.

For a dog who might be 13 or 14 (we’re not sure, as she’s a rescue, and we’re the third owner) it would have been torture (for example) to undertake the most elaborate option of tests, which require 4 to 5 days of confinement, and separation from us.

What would she understand except something terrifying, painful?

And so after an x-ray and bloodwork, we had a diagnosis and a prescription. Sam has liver problems that we’re treating with a series of different medications.

And then we came to the next big issue. While we had purchased the meds, we couldn’t get Sam to swallow anything. While a human might understand why the doctor instructs them to swallow a big goofy pill, it’s a different matter persuading a dog.

We tried some of the things we saw suggested online, the pill-in-food trick, the stroking of the throat that we’d done with our cat.

No luck.

And so it was a dark week. At one point we were facing the necessity of euthanasia, the fear that if Sam wouldn’t take her meds and her disease progressed, that she would have to be put down. We consulted with someone from Midtown Mobile Veterinary Hospice Services (website: ) who helped reduce some of our stress in contemplating the end of Sam’s life. Someday we expect to be calling upon them for help: but not yet…

Dec 22nd is the anniversary of the day we put down another dog back in 2002 with cancer. 2020 was looking every bit as dark as we shed tears, fearing that she would be taken from us.

A conversation with our local vet at Morningside Animal Hospital in Scarborough led to a suggestion, another pathway. He told us to use a syringe (the kind that doesn’t have a needle at the end), filled with water. We’d inject water into her throat as she was swallowing the pill (which means pill first, water second). Morningside Animal Hospital gave us some syringes.

So far it has worked every time, although on occasion we had to refill the syringe and spray again. Each time it’s a few cc’s of water, done just as the pill is going down.

While Sam will still pass away at some point (she’s old after all), at least she’s come back from the lethargy we saw on the weekend. Her energy level is much better today than before when she was dizzy & unable to do more than stagger about. Now she’s aware of her surroundings and eager to go outside. And her appetite seems to have come back.

It’s the best Christmas gift we could imagine. We’re grateful for the help from the vet, and cautiously optimistic.

Sam in the snow on Christmas Morning

We are relieved that at least we’re not stuck, no longer despairing, as we were a couple of days ago. I wanted to share the idea for anyone who’s having trouble getting their dog to swallow a pill.

Please make sure you consult with your own veterinarian, to see what might be best for your animal.

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1 Response to How to get your dog to swallow that pill

  1. Pingback: Bernie Sanders and The Samiotics of the Carolina Dog | barczablog

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