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How to Give a Dog Medicine

There comes a time in every dog's life when they need to take some kind of medication, vitamins, or supplements.

Whether it's an antibiotic for an infection or a dog supplement for joint health, you're going to need to know how to give a dog medicine properly and safely.

The Frustrating Task

Most dogs are notorious for refusing to take medicine, vitamins, supplements, and anything else they deem suspicious and not appealing in smell or taste.

Some dogs may be more willing to take their medicine than others; however, most canines will refuse, and you may have to force it down. 

A few tricks can help you give your dog a pill without having him spit it out.

I'll also share a few things you must remember when forcing pills on your dog.

In my video above on how to give a dog medicine or pills, I demonstrate a few proper and safe methods. 

Remember that no matter which method you choose to get your pet to take pills, you should keep the experience a positive one for him. 

This is important for the future success of giving your dog pills.

Finally, don't get frustrated when your pup doesn't eat his medicine on the first try. 

This is a technique you both must master, so it'll take time for you and the dog to learn how to give/take medicine pills. 

I'll expand more on this below and in the above video.

How to Give a Dog Medicine

How to Give a Dog Medicine Safely

Mix Pills with Food

The easiest way to give a dog pills is by mixing them into his dog food. 

Wrapping the medicine in a food source with a potent odor to mask the medicine smell will entice almost any dog to consume it. 

That's the oldest trick in the book; most of the time, it works like a charm.

Obviously, this will not work with dry kibble. 

Feeding canned wet food makes this easier since you can mix it into the meal, and your pet is unlikely to notice. 

If you're feeding homemade meals, that's an even easier option – just mix it in when cooking.

But most of us are probably using standard kibble. So as I explain in my video above, I recommend using sliced deli meat

It provides a strong odor and is easily malleable. 

You can wrap the meat around your dog's medicine pills. Your pup will likely swallow it whole without even noticing the medication.

That said, if you're reading tips on how to give a dog pills, you've likely tried the “food method,” and it doesn't always work. 

Maybe your dog is clever, like my Boxer, and he probably figured out your trick and how to eat the food and spit the pill out. 

In this case, the next easiest option is using pill pocket treats.

Use Pill Pockets Treats

Use Pill Pockets Treats

Pill pockets for dogs are special tasty treats that look like pill holders and are specifically made to wrap around a pet's medicine. They are pliable, so you slide the pill in and pinch both ends to hide it. 

This seals in the pill, and a dog would rarely be able to smell the medication or find a way to take it out.

Personally, I love dog pill pockets, and it's my favorite method of giving pills to a dog since they work 100% of the time in our household. 

The main drawback of using pill pocket treats is their expensive cost.

Generally, dog pill treats are an excellent solution for pets that only need medication for a short period. 

But if your dog will be taking medicine or vitamins for a long, it won't be cost-effective to feed him pill treats multiple times a day.

Here are the best dog pill treats for dogs that I've reviewed and liked in the past:

Play a Game

When dog pill pouches don't work, you can try playing a game with your dog. 

I like to call it the “1, 2, 3 Game. 

You can trick your dog into quickly eating his medication using three dog treats instead of just one. 

You probably see the pattern emerging here – tricking your pet can usually make your job much easier.

The “1, 2, 3 Game is straightforward, and here's how it works:

You can use any treats, but let's say you're using deli meat. Instead of just one piece, grab three pieces of meat. 

Hide the pill in one piece. 

Give your dog a piece without the pill, then the piece with the pill, and finally, the other piece with no pill.

Your dog may be suspicious initially, but he won't find a pill in the first piece. 

After testing the first one, he's likely to gobble up the other two pieces of meat without hesitation.

Note: You can use competition as a motivator in a multi-pet household. 

For example, feed a regular treat to your other pet, dog or cat. 

Your suspicious dog that requires the medication will see other pets happily eat their treat. 

He'll be likelier to gobble his stuff down in fear that one of the others may take it if he doesn't.

Empty Gel Caps or Crush Pills

If your dog won't eat food-wrapped pills or pill pockets, and the game doesn't work, there's another method. 

Try adding the medicine directly to his dinner. 

Again, canned or homemade dog food is a much better option.

It's moist and has a more pungent odor and specific consistency that will help to mask and hide the pill.

If you feed your dog dry kibble, which most of us do, this task will be a bit more complicated. 

But again, trickery is your best bet

So instead of mixing the whole pill in with your dog's dry kibble, try crushing the pill or emptying the gel capsule and mixing it up.

Gel caps should pull apart in the center, allowing you to sprinkle the powder inside your dog's food. 

You can throw the capsule part away – it contains no active ingredients.

If your dog has to take traditional pills, crush them with the backside of a spoon or a butter knife and sprinkle the powder over your dog's meal. 

You may still need to use homemade or canned dog food to entice your pup or add some bone broth.

But crushing the pill should make giving the dog medicine much easier.

How to Force Feed Medicine to Dogs

Force Feed the Medicine

Most dogs will take their medication willingly via one of the abovementioned options. 

I recommend you try all those methods before force-feeding a pill. 

Finally, if your dog is too clever to be tricked, you'll need to take this approach as the worst-case scenario and your last resort.

For example, our Boxer Chloe takes more than 5 pills every day. 

As I mentioned in my podcast episode, she has a heart condition that requires prescription medication as treatment. 

She used to fall for all of our tricks. 

Now that doesn't work anymore, so we had to resort to this method eventually.

If your pup is like my Chloe, you can force the pill down your dog's throat, and it really isn't that bad for the dog, and it's not difficult for you to do. 

Once you get the hang of it, you'll be able to force the medicine pills down your dog's throat quickly and painlessly.

If necessary, you can straddle the dog while he stands. 

Personally, I don't like to do it this way, as it seems to increase the dog's anxiety, and it could lead to aggression if your pooch feels threatened. 

Instead, I prefer to lay my dog on her side, as you'll see in my video above, and gently open her mouth.

Either way, you give your dog pills; when you open your pet's mouth, the dog will try to pull away, and his tongue will start moving rapidly. 

It's a natural reaction; most dogs will respond to your actions this way.

Therefore, you'll need to be quick about this. You don't want your pup to flick the pill out of their mouth with their tongue, which they can easily do. 

So pry the dog's mouth open and place the pill as far back into his throat as you can without making your dog gag.

Quickly close your pup's mouth and then rub his chin down his neck. 

This will elicit a natural swallowing reaction in your pup. 

After he swallows a few times, the pill will be gone, and your job will be done (see the real action in my video above).

I always like to give my Chloe a healthy dog treat after I give her a pill as a reward. 

It gives her something positive to associate with taking medicine and cheers her up.

how to give a dog liquid medicine with a syringeHow to Give a Dog Liquid Medicine With A Syringe

If your Fido has been prescribed a liquid medication, you'll follow a similar routine when giving your pet medicine. 

Instead of forcing a pill down the dog's throat, you'll squirt the liquid in your pup's mouth, and his natural reaction will be to swallow it.

Make sure you have all your supplies ready and close before opening your dog's mouth.

To do this, follow the instructions I've outlined above and shown in my video. 

Basically, lay your dog on his side (or straddle him while standing).

Again, I prefer giving our dogs medicine when they lie down for everyone's ease and comfort.

Next, lift your pet's cheek, and you'll see a pocket that forms between the back teeth and the cheek. 

This is where you will want to inject your dog's liquid medicine. 

When ready, take the filled syringe with the correct dosage of your dog's medicine and squirt it directly into that pocket in the back of the dog's mouth.

As soon as your pupper feels the liquid enter his mouth, his natural reaction will be to swallow. 

If you had to choose liquid medication or pills, liquid is probably the best bet

It's usually slightly easier to give a dog liquid medicine rather than trying to get him to swallow a pill.

FAQs On How To Give A Dog Medicine

It's totally fine to crush and/or mix certain pills and medication with dog food.

Make sure, though, that it is a medication that can be crushed.

What dog food can you mix with medicine?

Typically any dog food is fine.

You don't necessarily need to feed them dog food with their medicine.

You can wrap/hide the pill in a dollop of peanut butter (make sure no xylitol), thin cut meat, bread (don't go crazy), or cheese (not my preferred choice since you shouldn't be feeding your dog cheese anyway).

How To Give A Dog Medicine: Summary

So now we've given you some effective methods to give a dog medicine.

To recap we went through:

  • Mixing pills in with food
  • Using pill pockets
  • Playing a game
  • Using empty capsules
  • How to force feed medicine
  • How to Give a Dog Liquid Medicine With A Syringe

Hopefully, this was helpful and now you have a toolbelt when the time comes to give your dog medication.

READ NEXT: Syringe Feeding a Dog – Pros vs Cons (And How to Syringe Feed Your Pet)

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