How To Give a Pill to a Dog

I used to work at an animal shelter and we would have pets who needed to be given medication from time to time as they waited for their new forever homes. Sometimes it was something as routine as a heart worm pill and other times it was an antibiotic. Whatever the reason, in general, I found dogs were easier to give medication to compared to cats. For many of us pet owners, the first time we administer medication to our pets it can be stressful, mentally and in some cases, physically. Big dogs or stubborn cats can make the process tough.

In this article, we’ll go over some of the ways to pill a dog. In the next article in this series, we’ll cover how to pill a cat.

If you’ve never given pills to a dog, try these tips and tricks:

Wrap it up

  1. Wrap a piece of something yummy around the pill like cheese or peanut butter and offer it as a treat. Some friends of mine use Pill Pockets that can be purchased at many pet stores.
  2. Watch to make sure your dog ate and swallowed everything, not just the cheese.
  3. Offer a ton of praise

Crush and Mix

  1. Crush the pill up using the back of a spoon or a mortar and pestle.
  2. Take the crushed contents and mix it with a little bit of something that your dog loves: wet dog food, yogurt, baby food, etc.
  3. Offer just the right amount that it takes a few seconds for your dog to eat it all.

Make it Slide

This technique can be a little tougher, with or without a treat. Muzzle size, size of the dog, and size of the pill can all alter this method. Talk to your vet to figure out what may work best for you if your dog is finicky and didn’t fall for the methods listed above.

  1. Coat the pill in butter if your dog was too smart and didn’t get tricked by the cheese.
  2. With your dominant hand, hold the pill between your thumb and forefinger. It will be a little slippery.
  3. With your other hand, place it on top of your dog’s muzzle with the opening between your thumb and index finger cupping your dog’s nose.
  4. Tilt the head back and with your ring finger in the hand that is holding the pill, pull open your dog’s mouth.
  5. As soon as your dog’s mouth opens, drop the pill as far back over the tongue as possible.

  6. Let your dog close its mouth but do not let him/her walk away just yet.
  7. Pet the throat and offer some praise. Sometimes blowing in the nose will encourage your dog to swallow.
  8. Slowly let your dog walk away and see if a pill goes flying across the room or is spat out on the floor.
  9. If all else, fails try this technique again without butter and try to get the pill even farther back.A great description with images of how to administer pills can be found on the College of Veterinary Medicine’s website, here.
  10. Try to not stress yourself and the dog out. Ask for help if your dog is very resistant to taking medication and ask your vet if there’s an alternative such as a liquid solution that may work better.

As always, talk to your vet if you have any questions regarding the health and well-being of your pets. Part 2 of this series will cover the topic of adminstering oral medications to cats.

Tell us: how do you give your dog a pill? Share with us your tips and methods! We’d love to know.

Images from Laurenscape and College of Veterinary Medicine

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