How to Give a Dog a Pill 

how to give a dog a pill

Did your veterinarian prescribe a pill-based dog medication? Are you concerned your pup isn’t going to cooperate once you get them home? It happens. Maybe you have a newer rescue, or you’re just feeling a little nervous about feeding your dog an oral medication. 

Not a problem! Dogs everywhere take pills daily – some of them take 2-3 a day with each meal. Getting your dog to take his pills is a matter of trust and establishing a tasty delivery method. 

Disguise the Pills 

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Many dogs will take their pills like a champ – as long as you wrap them in cheese, a meatball, or sandwich meat. If this is your dog, rejoice. All you have to do is wrap a strip of turkey around that pill and feed it to your dog. Boom! Pill accepted. 

Another trick is to mush up some tasty wet food around the pill and offer it as a dog treat. You can also try Pill Pockets, which are flavored hollow capsules to disguise the smell, taste, and mouth feel of the pill. Pop your dog’s pill in the middle of the capsule, and they’ll only smell liver, peanut butter, or any other flavor you choose. 

If your dog has certain dietary restrictions or is on a low-sodium or low-fat diet, the Pill Pockets may be a better choice for your dog. 

Whatever method you use, make sure you deliver the hidden pill by hand so you can see that your dog swallows it. 

Other dogs are not as easy, and that’s when you have to get creative. 

Tricks for Giving a Stubborn Dog a Pill 

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So your dog wants to take the crown for most stubborn pooch and refuses your food-wrapped pills? You just have to be smarter and more patient. 

First, you have to rely on the power of surprise. Don’t let your dog see you go near the pill package and then turn around and try to lay a pill on them. 

That’s too obvious! Give your dog a little credit. 

This is a time to flex your inner ninja and either remove the day’s pills when your dog is out of the room or take them with you somewhere else and take them out of the packaging. 

Keep it cool and leave the pills in a safe place out of reach of prying paws or curious hands. When it’s pill time, you can engage your pup in some playtime. Heap plenty of praise on your dog and offer them a favorite treat. After a couple of dog treats, you can slip in a treat-wrapped pill. 

For example, if your dog loves cheese, and every dog I’ve ever met does love cheese, then offer your dog a small bit of American cheese slices rolled into a ball. Then, another one. Then, one with a hidden pill. And then another bit of cheese. 

If you keep the cheese coming, your dog will pay attention to the cheese and won’t be on edge expecting a decoy. Hopefully, they won’t even notice and will gobble it down. Mission accomplished. 

You can also try this method with cream cheese, liverwurst, hot dogs, almond butter, peanut butter (make sure it doesn’t have xylitol, as that’s toxic to dogs), cooked sweet potatoes, or other human food treats. Wet dog food can work great, too. 

In fact, you might want to mix up the way you hide your dog’s pills so your pup doesn’t catch on to the technique. For example, maybe you give your dog a spoonful of peanut butter followed by a hidden pill wrapped in liverwurst as a special treat. Your dog just might be too excited to pay attention. 

Is It OK to Crush Pills for Dogs? 

If you have small pills for your dog, you might wonder if you can crush them and add them to your dog’s regular food. 

It’s a great question but one best put to your vet. That’s because not every pill is meant for crushing. Some need to stay in pill form, and some have a special coating to mask the pill’s bitterness. Your DVM can let you know. 

The other concern is whether your dog will eat all his food and get the right dosage. Here’s what I mean: if you crush your dog’s pills and mix them into his food, that sounds great, right? But what if your dog doesn’t finish his meal? Or eats around the pill? Then, you don’t know how much of the medication he ingested. 

Now, if your dog always licks his bowl clean, “leave behinds” may not be a concern. If so, just ask your veterinarian if the medication is ok to crush and you can test it. 

How Do I Put a Pill Directly In My Dog’s Mouth? 

Got a dog who won’t be fooled by the tasty additions around the pill? The dog’s tongue licks all the good stuff off and spits out the bitter pill? Or eats all the kibble around it? What then? What’s a dog owner to do? 

You’ll need to improve your pill-handling technique. As long as your dog is trusting, this can work. However, if your dog is upset or showing signs of aggression, like growling at you or showing canine teeth, this is a no-go. 

But let’s assume your dog is trusting of you and just doesn’t want to swallow a nasty pill. You can’t blame them. 

How to Give a Dog a Pill Directly in the Mouth 

  1. Prepare the pill out of your dog’s site. You can put some chicken broth or drippings from canned dog food on it to help it slide down easier (and taste better!) 
  2. When your dog is relaxed and happy, invite them to sit nicely. You can reward with praise and a small treat. 
  3. Once your dog swallows the treat, use your dominant hand to hold the pill, and with your other hand, gently hold your dog’s muzzle. You want to use your fingers and thumb to open your dog’s upper jaw and gently tilt his hand back. The lower jaw should naturally open. 
  4. If needed, coax the lower jaw open more with your fingers but maintain a hold on the pill in your index finger and thumb. 
  5. Quickly, put the coated pill on the far back of the tongue. 
  6. Then, close your dog’s mouth and hold it closed until your dog swallows. 
  7. You can blow on your dog’s nose or rub it, which can distract your pup from the pill. Usually, a dog licks his nose after swallowing a pill.
  8. Praise your dog! Rub your dog’s head. Give treats and lavish him with affection. 

If you can make taking a pill a positive experience, your dog will be more agreeable to “pill time” in the future. 

You can also try a pill gun. As you might suspect, a pill gun is a slender tube where you put a pill. Then, you eject the pill into the back of your dog’s mouth past the taste buds, forcing your dog to swallow. Yes, there’s always the chance your dog will gag and cough it up. If this happens, you’ll need to try something else. Maybe you can wait until your dog has an empty stomach and try the hidden pill method again. 

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What If Nothing Works? 

If your dog hides under the bed or acts aggressively when you try to administer pills, you’re going to need another solution. This is not worth injury or long-lasting trauma – on either side.

You can ask your veterinarian if the pill comes in liquid medication or treats. Some compounding labs can make medication into tasty chewable treats flavored with beef, chicken, or other favorites. 

If those don’t work, you may need professional assistance. Some pet parents do bring their dogs to the veterinarian to administer pills and other medications. It may be inconvenient, but it’s preferable to injury. 

Now that you know these tested pill delivery methods for dogs, which will you try? You can wrap the meds in a delicious treat for your dog, try the manual pilling method, or request a liquid medication to squirt in your dog’s mouth or mix in the food. There are many ways to get your dog to take his meds, and with practice, you’ll know the best way to pill your dog. 


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