Tricks of the Trade

Last week one of my senior patients had a bad week. He developed bloat and needed emergency surgery. The surgical team pulled him through, but now he isn’t eating very well AND he needs to take lots of pills. Every pet owner who has ever had a sick pet knows what a tribulation it is getting medications into a pet that is not eating. Every veterinarian has a few tricks up his or her sleeve to help jump start the appetite or disguise a pill for the reluctant eater.

Here are the suggestions I made to the family to increase their dog’s appetite and to make pill administration easier, which they suggested I share the list with AMC’s blog readers:

Warm food is tastier than cold food. Even dry food benefits from a few seconds in the microwave. Warm food has a greater aroma and just a nice whiff of tasty food will encourage the reluctant eater to take a bite or two.

Try making your pet’s regular food more appealing. Dress food up with a dash of garlic powder, not garlic salt since none of us need more salt in our diets. Mix a warm flavoring into the food – try canned beef broth, chicken broth or, if your cat likes, fish or clam juice or the water from a can of tuna. There are also commercially available flavoring sauces for pets, so check your favorite pet store.

Pill popping is just another trial for the owner of a sick pet. I can’t take credit for coming up with these – my patients’ owners have let me in on their secrets. The main theme of the substances used successfully have a gummy texture. You need gummy to hold the pill while you pop it in your pet’s mouth. Foods to consider as camouflage for pills include: cream cheese, Velveeta cheese and peanut butter. If the pill is dull, not shiny, some pet owners lubricate the pill with olive oil or butter to make it slide down more easily. There are also commercially available pill pockets, which are gummy and have built in area to mask any hint of medication. No matter how you get the pill down their throat, give a drink of water afterwards to make sure the pill goes down all the way.

For nearly a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.

4 Responses to Tricks of the Trade

  1. I think the key is the amount. A pinch of garlic powder is not going to be harmful to your pet, but large quantities of garlic can be. The same applies to hot dogs. Using a small piece of a hot dog to give your dog a pill is fine, but frequently giving them hot dogs is not a good idea.

    Thanks for reading our blog!

  2. Angie says:

    I read above, about adding garlic powder to food, isn’t garlic and onions bad for dogs?
    Also is it okay to give dog pill in beef hotdog? I was told don’t do that can mess up blood work because of the nitrates?

  3. […] Several months ago, I blogged tips for getting your sick pet to eat and take his […]

  4. Lisa Holley says:

    When giving my pet(s) a pill I find that a 1″ slice of beef hot-dog with a slit through the center to make a pocket for the pill works “most” of the time. I say “most” because I had a Saluki that discovered my trick.

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