Tips for Administering Pills to Your Dog

Most dogs do not like to take pills. After all, they usually don't taste good, nor do they resemble a food item. Combine this with the fact that your dog has no idea why they need to take a pill and it can make for a difficult time convincing your dog to take their medication. Sometimes a little trickery, persuasion, and technique may be required to get your dog to take medication in pill form when they require it. For helpful tips and information on administering pills to your dog, read on.

Be Prepared

When your dog needs medication in pill form, make sure you read all the instructions on the medication packaging, so you understand the appropriate dosage, dosing schedule, whether medication can be taken with food, what to do if you miss a dosage, and how to handle and store the medication.

Trick or Treat?

If the pill can be taken with food, then administering it with food is usually your best option. Find some soft treat or food your dog really likes, the smellier the better, to disguise the smell and taste of the pill. Soft food allows you to insert the pill into the food, and hand feed it to you dog. Try to use relatively small pieces, or amounts of food, so that your dog is tempted to gulp it down without chewing, which could result in the pill getting separated from the food item, or your dog getting a bad taste from the medication in his mouth that will make him resistant in the future. Foods that are useful for administering your dog pills include meatballs, balls of canned food, cheese, and peanut butter. There are also commercially available soft treats that you can insert a pill into, specifically designed for administering pills, that most dogs love and readily eat.

If your dog is somewhat resistant to this method because they have “tasted” the pill inserted in a treat before, or just don’t trust that sneaky look in your eye, you can try giving them several treats, without medication, before offering the one with the pill inserted, to “trick” your dog into gulping down the treat and pill. Sometimes, having another dog present to foster competition, will make the dog gulp down the treat more readily, for fear of his companion stealing his prize. Just make sure the right dog gets the medication-laced treat if you use this method.

Added to the Mix

Some medications can be crushed up, and the pill and put in your dogs canned food. If you use this method, you will have to check with your veterinarian that crushing up the pill will not have any effect on the medication’s effectiveness, and monitor your dog to ensure all the food is consumed and that another dog or pet in the house does not accidentally ingest the medication-laced food. Many pills can also be dissolved in warm water in a syringe, and then administered as liquid medication by inserting the syringe into the mouth and depressing syringe to release the dissolved medicine. Some pet owners find this easier than administering a pill, which a dog may be able to manipulate out of their mouth with their tongue.


For foul tasting medication, you can purchase empty gel caps from a pharmacy, and put pills in the gelcaps to further disguise the taste of the pill. Gelcaps can then be hidden in food or administered manually.

The Direct Route

If the medication you are using cannot be administered with food or dissolved, you may need to manually insert the medication into your dog's mouth. You can do this with your hand or use a pill inserter. A pill applicator looks like a syringe with an end that holds the pill, when the plunger is depressed, the pill is released. You can use an applicator if you are not comfortable putting your hand in your dog's mouth, or are worried about getting bitten. Be careful not to insert the applicator too far into the mouth as they can injure the mouth or throat or cause a gag reflex.

Manual insertion of a pill can be accomplished by following the appropriate steps:

- Have the pill or applicator in your dominant hand
- Grasp your dog's upper jaw with your left or non-dominant hand, behind the canines, you can curl the lips over the teeth where you are grasping if you are concerned about your dog biting. If the dog bites, they will bite their lip before your fingers.
- With the pill in your right (or dominant) hand, pull the lower jaw down and pop the pill into their mouth at the base of the tongue.
- Quickly remove your hand to allow your dog to close his mouth and swallow.
- You can hold the dog’s mouth closed and stroke his throat or blow gently into his nose to encourage him to swallow.
- Do not pull the dog's head up too high, or they will begin to resist, and can choke. The head should be horizontal to the ground, or just tilted slightly up.
- Check your dog's oral cavity afterward, to ensure he has swallowed the pill and is not holding it between the lip and gum.

Finding a Method that Works for Both of You

There are several methods for effectively giving your dog a pill. Giving medication in a food treat is the easiest, if possible. If the dog is wary of this, making game of it, providing several non-medicated treats along with the medicated one, or using another dog to foster competition may help. Using gel capsules or dissolving pills in water and administering as a liquid may also be possible. If required, you can directly place the pill in your dog's oral cavity with your hand or a pill applicator. Work quickly, and hold the dog's mouth, behind the canines, with their lip curled over the teeth to avoid being bit. With a little practice and ingenuity, you should be able to successfully administer your dog's required medications in pill form smoothly and effectively.

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