Care

How To Get A Dog To Take A Pill

Are you trying to give your dog medicine? Sometimes the conventional methods just don’t work! So, what can you do if your dog won’t let you give them their medication? Our veterinarian gives some tips and tricks on making the medicine go down more smoothly so your dog can stay healthy.

Dr. Hannah Godfrey

Last Updated: May 16, 2022 | 6 min read

Pet owner

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When you bring home your new pet pooch, you’re committing to love and care for them for the rest of their lives. Thankfully, many of your dog’s needs are pretty straightforward – feed them appropriate food, keep fresh water available, and make sure they have somewhere comfortable and safe to rest.

Of course, you’ll also need to register them and their rabies vaccine records with your local animal control office, find a local veterinary clinic and follow your veterinarian’s advice about things like parasite control and vaccinations. It still seems pretty simple, right?

Well, one part of being a pup parent isn’t always easy, and that’s giving them medicine. So, what’s the best way to give your dog medication? We’ve got some tips to help make the ordeal a bit easier.

Sick Dog with medication
Whether it’s dewormer, antibiotics, or pain relief, medications come in various forms.

What Medicines Might Your Dog Need?

Some medicines, mainly parasite control, are available as a spot-on or a spray. Flea and tick, as well as heartworm prevention, are among the most common monthly needs. However, if your dog gets prescribed antibiotics, pain relief, or other types of medication, it’s likely to be a tablet or an oral liquid. Your veterinarian can inject many drugs, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have to continue the treatment at home too.

How Do You Give Your Pup Medicine?

Process of giving a medicine injection to a small breed dog with a syringe
If you have any questions about how a medication should be given, check with your vet first.

The following guide should give you an idea of how to go about giving your poor pup their medicine.

Get A Helping Hand

Especially if you’re new to the task, it’s worth asking someone to help you. This is also true if your dog hasn’t had medication before, even if you’ve successfully given tablets to another furry family member. Giving your dog medication for the first time can be a strange and even scary experience for them, which could result in plenty of wriggling. So, you might need the extra pair of hands. Over time, you’ll hopefully find both you and your dog getting better at it, and you might feel confident without help.

Have Everything Ready

Preparation is key. If you think you might need a syringe of water, a tasty treat, or the medication packaging, get them all ready before you start. After all, there’s no point in approaching your dog and letting them know something’s up if you then have to pop out to check the label because you can’t remember how many tablets to give.

Read The Label

Reading the label of your dog’s medication is so important. Over or underdosing is easily done, especially if you’re busy and on autopilot. You should check the dose each time you give the medication to make sure you know how much to give. It’s also important to check the label to ensure you’ve picked up the right medication. It’s not unheard of for pets to be given their parent’s human medication accidentally. Although this sounds silly, it’s very dangerous, so you should always double-check.

Stay Safe

If at any point your dog growls, snaps, or gives you body language to suggest they are worried and may behave aggressively, you shouldn’t try to give them medication yourself. Try some of the options below to give the medication safely, and make sure you speak to a veterinarian or behaviorist for advice.

Give The Medication

It goes without saying that you need to be sure of how your dog’s medication should be given before you give it. Your veterinarian should have printed the instructions on the label, so make sure you check. You don’t want to be applying eye drops into their ear or putting a chemical meant as a spot-on into their mouth.

If you’re giving your dog a tablet, you should hold the tablet in one hand and use both hands to open their mouth wide. You can then place the pill as far back in their mouth as you can, over the base of their tongue. Once the tablet is in, keep their mouth closed and their head tilted upward and wait for them to swallow. You’ll know they’ve swallowed if their tongue comes out. If you want to encourage them to swallow, you could use a syringe to squirt some water into their mouth.

Giving a liquid medicine is pretty similar to giving tablets, but instead of opening their mouth wide, you can stick the nozzle of the syringe into the side of their mouth and between their teeth, causing them to open their mouth slightly. You can then press the syringe to deliver the medicine into their mouth. Again, you should keep their mouth closed and their head tilted until they have swallowed.

Give Positive Reinforcement

To make sure that giving your sick pooch medication gets easier over time rather than harder, you should give plenty of positive reinforcement. Giving them lots of verbal praise and fuss, a treat, or their favorite toy should help them make positive associations with medication.

What If Your Dog Won’t Take Their Medicine?

Purple and green pill on pile of dog kibble
If your dog is eating, why not try hiding the medication in their food?

Some of the tips below might be the answer.

Give It In Their Meal

In theory, this is a great idea, and sometimes it works well. However, there are some stipulations.

First, you should check that the medication is okay to be given with food, as some need to be given on an empty stomach. It’s also best to give the medication in the smallest amount of food you can. This ensures that your dog gets the full dose at the right time, rather than picking at the food over a longer period.

Give It While Giving Treats

If you’re trying to give a tablet that’s safe to be given with food, you could try to fool your furry friend. Take a handful of treats and give three or four in quick succession, followed by the tablet, then some more treats. You might find your hungry hound is so focused on the treats that they don’t even notice.

Disguise It In Something Tasty

Rather than putting the medicine in a whole meal, it sometimes works better to hide a tablet in a single tasty morsel. There are lots of different foods that are great for disguising pills but check that any human food is dog-safe before you offer it. If your dog has a sensitive belly, stick to foods that you know they don’t react to.

Cheese

Cheese is an excellent option as many dogs love it, and it has quite a strong taste. It’s also quite moldable, which means hiding a tablet in it can be pretty easy.

Plain Yogurt

Plain yogurt, in small amounts, can be great for hiding crushed tablets. However, you should always check with your veterinarian before crushing your dog’s pills to make sure this is safe.

Peanut Butter

Another doggy favorite is peanut butter. That strong smell and taste is a winner when it comes to medicating your mutt. But make sure you choose a dog-safe peanut butter that doesn’t contain xylitol.

Pocket Treats

There are lots of treats that have special pockets or pouches to hide tablets. Do some browsing, and you’re bound to find the right one for your four-legged friend.

Pâté

While not common in most homes, pâté is strong-smelling even in small amounts, so it’s perfect if you own a doggy detective who can sniff out medication a mile off.

Encourage And Reward Them

It’s really important not to make tablet time something to be scared of. If you encourage and reward your pup when they make baby steps towards the ultimate goal, you should notice that they start to make progress.

Still No Luck?

If you’re really struggling to give your dog medication, speak to your veterinarian. There may be another type of treatment available. For instance, let your vet know if tablets are a problem for your dog, but they take liquid medication fine. On the other hand, if tablets and oral medicines are out of the question, your vet might be able to give repeat or long-acting injections.

Final Thoughts

Giving your canine companion medicine can be stressful, but using the tips above should help. Remember that your dog might lash out if they are painful or feeling unwell, so you should always keep yourself safe. If you’ve tried your best to give medication, but your dog has other ideas, speak to your veterinarian. There might be other treatment options that suit you and your pup better. Once you’ve found the best method of medicating your dog, you’ll be able to help them feel better without unnecessary stress.

The information provided through this website should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease; it is not intended to offer any legal opinion or advice or a substitute for professional safety or care advice. Please consult your health care provider, attorney, insurance expert, or product manual for professional advice. Products and services reviewed are provided by third parties; we are not responsible in any way for them, nor do we guarantee their functionality, utility, safety, or reliability. Our content is for educational purposes only.

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