Medicating Picky Eaters
Gabapentin and other medications can be helpful in making pets feel more comfortable and relaxed, which can help them adjust better in preparation for adoption and improve their behavior treatments. However, getting cats and dogs to take meds can be as big of a challenge as giving them a bath. Even when they’re quite hungry, they can smell or detect even the most cleverly disguised pill.
Our staff and fosters successfully administer pills to hundreds of pets every day—and it doesn’t take a pill popper tool or advanced handling skills. Here are their recommendations:
- Start with meds before their meal.
A hungry pet may be less picky. Use wet food to mix with meds and break out the meds from the capsule to better hide in the food. Make the amount smaller, so it’s harder for them to avoid the meds (1 teaspoon for cats and 1 tablespoon for dogs).
- Use a pill pocket or pill wrap.
- Use a small amount (just enough to cover the pill entirely). Flatten, then place the pill inside and close. Cover with a small amount of high-value food.
- To avoid taste and scent contamination, don't touch the outside of the pill wrap with the same hand that touched the pill. Use gloves if needed.
- Some animals may develop an aversion to pill wrap. In these cases, consider cheese, deli meat, or another substitute.
- Use appropriately sized meatballs.
Use pea-sized for cats and grape-sized for dogs. The goal is to have them swallow the meatball without chewing.
- Rapid feed using decoy meatballs.
Make decoy meatballs by placing something in the middle of the meatballs, such as a piece of kibble or a crunchy treat. Give a decoy meatball. Then, offer the pill meatball just as they are finishing the first decoy, then offer another decoy before they finish eating the pill meatball.
- For dogs, act as if you are giving them treats.
Toss the meatballs for them to catch, and ask for known behaviors such as “sit” or play “find it”.
- Try mixing during mealtime.
- Mix meds with high-value treats—the wetter and smellier the better.
- Section part of the meal with meds for more success.
- Experiment on success, and remember that each animal is different.
- Find their favorite wet food. If you mix into that, you'll find they eat most readily.
- Medicate only in one-quarter of the meal. Then, if they don't eat it, they still get a full meal.
- Take the animal to an alternate area
- Medicate before feeding
- Offer meatball with no tray, metal bowl, or ceramic bowl
- Warm food
- Place tray at back of kennel or in hidey box
- Use a visual barrier such as bogus paper for fearful animals
- Offer meds after kennel / condo is cleaned
- Offer meds at a quieter time with less activity
- Hand feed
- Place high-value food at bottom of tray (under the pill meatball)
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