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How to Give a Dog a Pill

Many pet parents wonder why their beloved dog will eat grass, the contents of a garbage bag, and sometimes even feces, but inevitably refuse medicine.

While there exist dogs who swallow pills and syrup with hardly any fuss, in most cases it’s a battle and pet parents learn to dread the process.

Fortunately, there are a number of ways to persuade your dog to take her medicine.

Once you master these, it’ll be much easier to keep her healthy without losing your mind.

Without the medicine, who knows what sickness they could get!

Tricks To Get Your Dog To Take A Pill

If you’ve ever tried to give a dog a pill, you know it can be an exhausting task. Here are a few ways you can make it easier.

Trick #1 — Hide the Pill in Food

a dog with a red sweater vest with a white cross on the chest. The dog has a thermometer in it's mouthFood is often the simplest way to get your dog to eat medicine.

You can put it in her meals, hide it inside a treat, or even use it to train her to swallow a pill on her own.

Use high-value treats for this first trick. Hide the pill in one of the treats.

Always be sure to give her a few pieces without the medicine before casually slipping in the doctored one.

Then quickly follow it up with a few more of the treat so she doesn’t have time to ponder the medicinal smell or taste.

If your dog enjoys catching treats in her mouth, toss them to her. A game is always a good distraction.

Trick #2 — Training your Dog to Take Medicine

If the medicine has a longer course or must be fed regularly, then it serves to train your dog to swallow pills placed inside her mouth.

You can use food for this as well. Instead of letting her take the treat from you, place small pieces of it on her tongue.

Give her half a dozen pieces in succession and let her associate the discomfort of letting you insert your hand in her mouth with a good outcome.

Repeat this several times a day. When you eventually sneak in a tablet or capsule in place of a treat she’ll swallow it habitually and look forward to the next piece.

Don’t stop playing the game before the prescribed course ends. If she suddenly only gets pills in her mouth, she’ll learn to reject them again.

Trick #3 — Camouflaging the Pill

If the above methods don’t work for you, then grind the tablet to powder and mix it with a spoonful of meat paste or wet food that she enjoys.

If she rejects the mixture, then smear a little bit on her muzzle. Her instinct would be to lick it clean.

This is best done in the middle of playing when she can’t focus too much on the slightly unfamiliar taste.

However, you should keep in mind that some pills are deliberately coated so they dissolve slowly and grinding them to powder defeats the purpose.

Trick #4 — Finesse

It also pays to know how to feed medicine without the aid of props.

Hold the pill in your dominant hand and insert the thumb of your other hand behind her canine. Press the roof of her mouth and tilt her head upwards

As she opens up, place the pill close to the back of the tongue. If it’s too close to the sides or the front, she will spit it out the moment you take your hand out.

Gently hold her mouth closed until she swallows.

Some dogs excel at the art of hiding pills in their mouth until it’s safe to spit it out, so as soon as she seems to have swallowed give her a treat.

This will require her to swallow again and you can be sure that the pill is definitely in her stomach.

A useful trick for dogs who stubbornly refuse to swallow is to hold her mouth closed and softly blow once into her nostrils. She’ll swallow on reflex.

Be careful not to place the pill too deep into the mouth, and never try to throw it down her throat. This could cause her to gag or choke.

If the medicine is a syrup or suspension, you can open her mouth as previously described and upturn the measured dose on to her tongue.

Be careful not to throw it down her throat or it may go into the windpipe.

Trick #5 — Liquifying the Pill

A simpler method is to use an injector. Purchase a syringe, break and responsibly dispose of the needle and use the injector to draw out the required dose from the bottle.

Then keeping a hold of your dog, gently insert the mouth of the injector into the pocket between the cheek and the teeth.

Hold her lips closed for a few moments and then feed her a treat. Don’t give her too much to swallow at once; take your time.

You could look into devices like the pill dropper and pill pockets to make your life easier.

Veterinary drugs even come in chewable, meat-flavored avatars.

Trick #6 (not really a trick) — Whatever Works!

Determine what works best for your dog. Her well-being is a big responsibility but medicating your dog should not cause stress or anxiety in your home.

Early training will create a strong positive association with medicine and make things easier for you.

But no dog is too old to be trained. Practice with your dog and remember to use high-value food to train and reward.

With some patience and persistence, you can make this essential part of caring for your pet an easy and even fun experience for both of you.

Getting Your Dog to Take Medicine

Your dog’s health is essential, and one key part of having a healthy dog is giving them their medicine. It doesn’t have to be a chore.

If these tricks have helped you, we promise there are plenty of other tips we have on caring for your dog on our blog.

Depending on the medication and the reason for the pills, a dog pet insurance plan could help you pay for it. As you probably know, caring for a dog can be expensive, but it doesn’t always have to be.
Learn More About Health Paws Now!

  1. Reply
    Andrea Robinson 11/17/2015 at 3:04 am

    Great advice! I learned some of these tricks the hard way!

    One problem I’ve had with smearing something on the dog’s muzzle is finding that the dog goes and wipes her muzzle on the couch instead of licking off the smear. No matter how much we know, dogs still fool us from time to time.

    And of course, don’t try to force your dog to take meds if your dog is aggressive. But for the vast majority of the dogs out there, this will work.

    Also, your vet can provide you with syringes without the needles, which readily screw on or off.

    For cats, I use a pill-popper, which is a very long syringe with a rubbery end that you can put the pills into.

    You can also teach animals to cooperate and accept shots, baths, ear cleaning, foot handling, etc., but that’s a good story for another time.

    Good advice as usual.


  2. Reply
    Jane 11/19/2015 at 12:46 am

    This must be one of the most useful posts ever. Even you are a dog lover and have always had dogs giving medicine is surely one of the hardest tricks to master. My family usually add the medicine to the dog’s food and this works. I had no idea that a dog could actually pretend to swallow a pill and then spit it out after. That’s incredible. Thanks for these tips. I’m assuming that at least one of them will work in any given scenario.

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