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How To Give Your Dog A Pill

Some dogs will eat anything and everything—including their medications. However, most dogs are reluctant to gobble down pills and capsules, especially if the medication is large or if it smells bad to them.  Some dogs are wary of anything unusual and will refuse all types of medications.  We have complied some information on how to medicate your dog! 

How to Pill Your Dog…

There are 4 basic ways to medicate your dog: 

  1. Chewable medication: whenever possible, consider chewable or flavored medication.  Some dogs will just eat it as a treat.  
  2. Mixing the medication:  Another option to consider is to grind the pill into a fine powder using either a mortar and pestle, two spoons, a hammer, a pill grinder, or anything that will achieve the desired result.  Capsules are usually easy to open.  You can then mix the powder in a small amount of a very tasty canned pet food or human food (see list below) that your pet normally goes crazy over.  Just make sure that your pet eats all the food, or they won’t get all their medicine, so don’t use a large amount of food. Also note that some medication does not taste very well, and some pets can smell it in their food, causing them to avoid eating whatever food the medication was placed in.
  3. Hiding the medication: You can simply hide your dog’s medication inside a special treat or food and offer the treat to him.  First prepare five or six treats. Use something really tasty, like soft dog treats, canned food, or pieces of hot dog or cheese. You can also try using special hollow treats, such as Greenies® Pill Pockets®, which are made to hold pills. KEY to REMEMBER: ROTATE various treats on daily basis to keep your dog interested in the food! 

If your dog tends to chew treats rather than swallow them whole, make the treats small. Give him a few non-medicated treats first, one quickly right after the other, and then give him the one with the pill inside.  So that your dog doesn’t have time to notice that you’ve just sneakily fed him a pill, immediately pop one more normal treat into his mouth.  In addition to “Pill Pockets”, some food items you can use to hide your dog’s pills or capsules:

    • Cheese
    • Spray cheese (Easy Cheese Cheddar n Bacon)
    • Peanut Butter (preferably chunky style to hide pills)
    • Marshmallows (hypoallergenic)
    • Chewable / soft dog treats
    • Cream Cheese
    • Hot dogs
    • Fig Newtons
    • Liver paste
    • Deli meat
    • Baby food
    • Canned pumpkin
    • Boiled pieces of chicken
    • Spam
  1. Tossing the medication: Dogs that enjoy catching treats tossed to them will often catch and swallow a pill if you act as though you’re tossing a treat. Grab a handful of small treats and toss them to your dog, one right after the other. Somewhere during the treats, toss the pill or toss a soft treat with the pill hidden inside. With any luck, your dog will catch and swallow it before he even notices it was different! 

If All Else Fails…

It’s best to use the tricks above to avoid causing your dog (and you) unnecessary stress. However, if the above methods fail, you’ll need to open your dog’s mouth and insert the medication directly. Before you start, get a tasty SOFT treat and keep it within reach. 

  1. Hold the pill in the fingers of one hand. Place that hand on your dog’s lower jaw and the other hand on his upper jaw. Lift his head up toward the ceiling. 
  2. Open your dog’s mouth and twist your hand around so you can insert the pill. Place the pill to the side of your dog’s tongue as far back as you can reach, and then quickly withdraw your hand as you can close your dog’s jaws.  
  3. Continue to hold your dog’s jaws closed with one hand while keeping his nose pointed up at the ceiling, and quickly smear the soft, mushy food (cream cheese, spray cheese, peanut butter, etc) on your dog’s nose. Once he licks, he has swallowed!  
  4. As soon as you think your dog has swallowed the pill, offer him the tasty treat so that he takes it and swallows again when he takes the treat. 
  5. Alternatively, if your dog tries to immediately spit the pill out, gently syringe feed him some water directly after medicating him.  Use a “curved tip”, needle-less syringe you can obtain from your veterinarian.  

Right after pilling your dog, keep an eye on him for a minute or two. Some dogs learn to hold the pill in their mouth and then spit it out when you’re not paying attention. 

If You Have to Give Your Dog Pills Long Term…

If your dog requires medication for an extended period of time, he could become resistant to pilling. He might run and hide from you when it’s pill time, or he might get savvy about not swallowing his pills. To avoid problems, you can teach your dog in advance that whenever you open his mouth and put something in, it’s almost always a tasty treat. 

  1. Cut up some soft, tasty treats, such as pieces of hot dog or cheese, or use small chunks of ground beef or chicken. Then follow the steps above, just as you would if giving your dog a pill for real, but use these treats instead of a pill. 
  2. Repeat the exercise 10 to 20 times in a row. 
  3. Practice two or three times a day for several days to prepare your dog for taking medication. 

Eventually, your dog will look forward to your putting things into his mouth, and he‘ll be less likely to object when you occasionally insert a pill instead of a treat. However, for this technique to work, you must continue to practice it after you start giving your dog real pills. Overall, the ratio of good experiences to bad experiences for your dog must be high. So, for every real pill you give him, he should receive a minimum of 20 “treat pills”—although not all at one time! You can achieve this ratio just by continuing to do 5 to 10 repetitions of the exercise two or three times a day until your dog has finished his entire course of medication. 

Please note – you will need to adjust your dog’s daily food intake down in order to account for the added treat calories.