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 in a proper and safe way.
Table of Contents
The Frustrating Task
Majority of dogs are notorious for refusing to take medicine, vitamins, supplements and anything else that 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. There are a few tricks that can help you to give your dog a pill without having him to spit it out, and a few things you need to keep in mind when forcing pills in 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 future success of giving your dog pills.
Finally, don't get frustrated when your pooch doesn't eat his medicine on the first try. This is technique you both have to 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
1. 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 strong odor to mask the medicine smell will entice almost any dog to consume it. That's the oldest trick in the book, and 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, and your pup is likely to swallow it whole without even noticing the pill.
That said, if you're reading tips on how to give a dog pills, you've likely tried the “food method” and something doesn't work. Maybe your dog is clever, like my Boxer, and he probably figured out your trick as well as how to eat the food and spit the pill out. In this case, the next easiest option is using pill pocket treats.
2. 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 just slide the pill in and pinch both ends to hide it. This seals in the pill, and it's rare that a dog would 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. That said, the main drawback of using pill pocket treats is their expensive cost.
Generally, dog pill treats are a great solution for pets that only need medication for a short period of time. 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 really liked in the past:
|GREENIES PILL POCKETS Capsule Size Natural Dog...||22,937 Reviews||Check Price|
|Milk-Bone Pill Pouches Dog Treats, Hickory Smoked...||7,543 Reviews||Check Price|
|Vetoquinol Pill Wrap Treats for Dogs & Cats –...||1,668 Reviews||Check Price|
|Vetiq Pill Treats, 30 Soft Chews For Dogs, Chicken...||1,599 Reviews||Check Price|
3. 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“. Using three dog treats instead of just one, you can trick your dog into easily eating his medication. You probably see the pattern emerging here – tricking your pet can usually make your job much easier.
The “1, 2, 3 Game“ is very simple, and here's how it works:
You can use any treats, but let's say that 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 with pill, and finally the other piece with no pill.
Your dog may be suspicious at first, 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: In a multi-pet household, you can use competition as a motivator. 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, and he'll be more likely to gobble his stuff down in fear that one of the others may take it if he doesn't.
4. Empty Gel Caps or Crush Pills
If you're having a hard time getting your dog to eat pills wrapped in food or pill pockets, and the game doesn't work, you can try adding the medicine directly to his dinner. Again, canned dog food or homemade dog food is a much better option because it's moist and have a stronger 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 is going to be a bit more difficult. 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 over 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 pooch, or try adding some bone broth, but crushing the pill should make giving the dog medicine much easier.
5. Force Feed the Medicine
Most dogs will take their medication willingly via one of the options I mentioned above, and I recommend you try all those methods first 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, but 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 go about giving your dog pills, when you open your pet's mouth, the dog is going to try to pull away and his tongue will start moving rapidly. It's a natural reaction and most dogs will respond to your actions this way.
Therefore, you'll need to be quick about this. You don't want your pooch to flick the pill out of his mouth with his 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 throat from his chin down his neck. This will elicit a natural swallowing reaction in your pooch. After he swallows a few times, the pill will be gone and your job will be done (see the full 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 it cheers her up.
If your Fido has been prescribed a liquid medication, you'll follow a similar routine when giving your pet medicine. Instead of having to force a pill down the dog's throat, you'll just 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.
Now to do this, follow the same instructions I've outlined above and shown in my video. Basically, lay your dog on his side (or straddle him while he's standing). Again, I prefer giving our dogs their medicine when they are lying 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 are going to want to inject your dog's liquid medicine. When you're ready, take the filled syringe with the correct dosage of your dog's medicine and squirt it directly into that pocket that forms 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 have the option of choosing liquid medication or pills, liquid is probably the best bet. It's usually slightly easier to give a dog a liquid medicine rather than trying to get him to swallow a pill.