About two weeks ago, I woke up to what sounded like a giant irate goose — a mix between a honk and a gag. Half-awake, I struggled to place the noise, and after a few moments of confusion, my vision adjusted to the dark and I could see that the noise was coming from my dog, Oreo.

Sitting beside the bed, looking quite miserable, Oreo was coughing … if you could even call it that. It was really quite a strange noise.

My first reaction was to look in his throat and nostrils for any obstruction, but there was nothing. Plus, I noticed that he was breathing fine in between coughs. Yet something was clearly wrong; so, it being in the middle of the night, I turned to the most accessible source: the internet.

It only took me a few Google searches to arrive at the conclusion that Oreo probably had Kennel Cough, or canine infectious tracheobronchitis. It’s common and highly contagious. Often it’s passed around at kennels, and Oreo had just been to the kennel for an overnight stay less than a week prior. It all made sense.

So the next day, we took him to the veterinarian clinic, and now he has to take antibiotics and cough suppressants, which are really a godsend because the coughing made him very uncomfortable and was keeping us all from a good night’s sleep. Some people wait kennel cough out, letting the dog recover on his own, but I read that the virus can be painful. I didn’t like the thought of Oreo sitting at home hacking and honking all day. The meds cost about $95.

So Oreo has to swallow two fairly large antibiotics in the morning and one at night until the pills are all gone. Plus he has to take cough suppressants every 8-12 hours.

The only problem is — Oreo doesn’t like being forced to do (or consume) new things. I tucked the pills in a fragrant, meaty treat called a Greenies Pill Pocket, and Oreo ate the treat … and spit out the pill.


So over the past week or so, my husband Derek and I have come up with two methods of tricking Oreo into consuming pills.

Method #1. Line several treats up on a table (which excites Oreo) and tuck the pill into one of the treats (preferably when he’s not looking), whether it’s a Pill Pocket or a yogurt granola bar or pieces of chicken. Then toss Oreo one treat. He’ll catch and eat it. And before he has time to chew more than a couple times, toss him another treat, then another, and another. Don’t give him much time between tosses, and he’ll swallow quickly. One of the treats will have had the pill inside, and he won’t even notice. He was too busy getting ready to catch the next treat.

Just make sure these treats are big. You don’t want your dog choking because he hasn’t chewed it up before trying to swallow.

Here’s a short video of this highly scientific process, taken with Tout, an application that will allow me to make short videos on small topics for my blog from now on. (It’s an experiment.)


Then there’s Method #2, in which we trick Oreo into eating a pill by slathering it in crunchy peanut butter and placing it on a chip. Derek came up with this method. I’m not sure how it works, but he has suggested that the combination between the crunchy chip, the peanut chunks and the sticky, flavorful peanut butter masks the feeling and taste of the pill. Again, highly scientific.

These methods may not work for your dog, but they worked for Oreo. And next time you’re struggling to get your dog to take medication, I hope you remember that you’re not alone. Dogs are intuitive. They seem to know when something is different. So sometimes you just have to get creative — even sacrifice the best snacks in your cupboard — to trick them into taking much-needed medication.

Aislinn Sarnacki

Aislinn Sarnacki is a Maine outdoors writer and the author of three Maine hiking guidebooks including “Family Friendly Hikes in Maine.” Find her on Twitter and Facebook @1minhikegirl. You can also...