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Tips For Administering Liquid Medication to Your Dog

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By Wag! Staff

Published: 09/22/2017, edited: 12/15/2022

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Nobody likes taking medicine. It often tastes pretty gross, and while you may understand why you have to drink a nasty-tasting substance, your dog doesn't. When faced with swallowing a foul-tasting liquid medicine, many dogs simply refuse to cooperate. 

But many pet parents find liquid medication easier to give than pills, which a fussy dog may spit out, so it's important to know how to give your dog liquid medication properly. Keep reading for tips to help ensure that your dog gets the correct dosage, and you avoid spills and stress, when giving medicine to your pup.


Be prepared

First things first: read the instructions on any liquid medication carefully so you know exactly what to do. Does it need to be refrigerated? Does it have to be stored away from sunlight? Can it be administered with food? 

Double-check the instructions from your veterinarian about the correct dosage for your dog, including how much medicine they need and how often. Next, make sure that you have an appropriate applicator¬†‚ÄĒ¬†many liquid medications are administered with a syringe or dropper.¬†

Don't forget that the contents of a liquid suspension can settle to the bottom of their container. You may need to shake the medicine before administering to ensure that it is mixed together properly. 


Sneak it in

The simplest way to administer liquid medication is to mix the appropriate dosage with some canned food. Of course, you'll need to check whether the medicine can be given with food before trying this approach.

If it's safe to be consumed with food, use a small amount of food to ensure that your dog takes all the medication and that there's no food or medication left over.¬†If you've got other pets, you'll need to separate them to make sure none of your other fur-babies help themselves to the food‚Äďmedicine mix.¬†

Finally, remember to watch your dog closely to make sure they consume all the treated food and medication.


Take the direct route

If your dog refuses to take the medication in food, or if the medicine can't be safely given with food, it will need to be administered directly.

To directly give your dog liquid medication, you'll need to complete the following steps:

  1. Draw the appropriate dosage into the dosing syringe. Make sure you know the correct dosage amount before starting this step.

  2. If the medicine has been refrigerated, you may want to warm it up in your hand to make it more palatable for your dog. Alternatively, you could put the syringe in warm water or allow it to sit at room temperature for a few minutes. However, you should never put medication in the microwave.

  3. Put your dog in an area where they are relaxed and comfortable, and where you have room to work. Make sure to have the dosage prepared and within easy reach.

  4. If possible, have someone else help you position your dog. If your pooch is a reluctant patient, you may need the other person to gently restrain your dog and help them stay calm.

  5. Carefully pull your dog's lower lip away from their teeth, behind the canine teeth to create a "pouch" for the medicine. Put the tip of the syringe into this pouch. Point it towards the back of the head and behind the canine teeth, then gently insert the applicator syringe past the tooth line.

  6. Watch for any signs that your dog is agitated as this can cause them to move and medicine to be spilled. It could also lead to your stressed dog lashing out, so if your dog becomes distressed, calm them and work quickly to give them the medicine.

  7. Push the plunger of the syringe down to release the medication into your dog's mouth. Be careful to push the syringe slowly enough to give your dog time to swallow the medicine and avoid them spitting it out. Don't try to tilt your pup's head back as this can cause them to inhale the medicine and choke.

  8. Close your dog's mouth so that they don't spit out the medicine, and hold it closed until they swallow. You can blow on your pup's nose or stroke their throat to encourage them to swallow.

  9. If your dog spits out some of the medication, don't try to guess how much of the dose was lost and give them extra medicine to compensate. It's impossible to determine the exact amount that was spat out, and guessing could result in an overdose. Most canine dosages account for some medication being spit out or spilled, so you should only try to administer the dose again if you're absolutely sure your dog did not swallow any medication at all.

  10. Give your dog a treat afterwards (if it's safe to give food with the medication).

  11. Wash the syringe between dosages to remove bacteria from your dog's mouth as well as any residual medication.

  12. Wash your hands thoroughly.


Finding the best technique

Liquid medications can be a whole lot easier than pills to give to some dogs, but you still need to take care. Make sure you read all the instructions carefully so you know how to handle the medication safely and give your dog the correct dose. Having another person on hand to help will also make the process much easier. 

Finally, don't forget that it might take a little practice to fine tune your technique. Find out what works for you and your dog, and do your best to remain patient and calm throughout the process. If you can do that, it will make taking medication a much more pleasant experience for your fur-baby.



Need a helping paw giving your mutt their meds? Use Wag! Vet Chat to connect with a licensed veterinary professional for expert advice.


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