It’s been a long time since I needed to care for a dog recuperating from surgery, but that is currently the situation at my house. The wearing of an Elizabethan collar to prevent licking and chewing, and daily doses of a variety of medications remind me of a few tricks that I haven’t needed to utilize in a while.
For some dogs, medicating them can become a game of sniff-out-the-pill-in-the-cookie. Once they figure out that there may be a pill lurking in the goodie, they tend to deconstruct every cookie offered, and it becomes increasingly difficult to hide the pill. But there is a nearly sure-fire way to get around this: Use your dog’s tendency to be a greedy little cookie pig to your advantage.
Select a type of goodie that your dog really enjoys, also making sure it is moist and soft. I use string cheese, hot dogs or soft jerky. Carefully conceal a pill in one treat, and then add at least four “unstuffed” treats to the pile. I offer my dog the first treat, allowing him plenty of time to check it for the presence of the pill. When he’s decided it’s “clean” and safe to eat, I offer him the second treat. As soon as I do, I show him the third “loaded” treat and place that one right at his nose. He will likely gulp the second treat in order to grab the third. Then I rapidly follow up the third treat with the fourth, so the dog will gulp the pill-laden third treat in order to get the fourth, and presto! I have successfully pilled the dog without arousing any suspicion.
Another approach is to utilize other dogs in the house in a competitive manner. You can give a treat to the dogs one at a time, and chances are each dog will be more focused on you and who gets the next cookie over what they are actually swallowing. Everybody wins as long as I am certain to give the treat with the pill to the right dog!
Having the dog wear an Elizabethan, or “cone” collar is a necessary evil, but one must remember that its function is to prevent the dog from licking or chewing when unsupervised. It is impossible for my dog to lick or chew at his incision when we are walking the neighborhood, so the cone is off, making the walk much more pleasant and stimulating. I can also give him some time without the cone by providing him with a chewing project, but I must be there to supervise. When my focus is elsewhere, or I need to leave the dog alone, the cone goes back on.
There are numerous cone options available, and many do the job of preventing your dog from licking and chewing while being much less cumbersome than the standard plastic, rigid cone. Kong makes an inflatable tube collar that can be very effective, depending on the area the dog needs to avoid. My new favorite is the Comfy Cone, made of a soft and flexible material, easy to clean, doesn’t bruise my leg when the dog is moving around, and seems to be much less stressful for the dog to wear.
Lisa Moore’s pet-behavior column appears once a month on the Pet Page. Write to her in care of LifeStyles, The Modesto Bee, P.O. Box 5256, Modesto 95352.