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How to Get a Dog to Take a Pill: 7 Vet-Approved Tips to Consider

Written by: Ed Malaker

Last Updated on May 22, 2024 by Dogster Team

Sick dog Jack Russell Terrier dog waiting get pill from hand of owner

How to Get a Dog to Take a Pill: 7 Vet-Approved Tips to Consider


Dr. Lauren Demos  Photo


Dr. Lauren Demos

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Getting your dog to take a pill can be a challenging task and a stressful one if it’s medication that your pet must take at a certain time. If you need to give a pill to your dog but aren’t sure how, read on for several tips and tricks. We also explain how to do the process manually if necessary, so you can ensure that your pet recovers well and stays healthy.

The 7 Tips to Get Your Dog to Take a Pill

1. Hide the Pill in Food

One of the easiest and most common ways to trick your pet into taking their medication is to hide it in their food. Many dogs are often in such a hurry to eat their dinner that they don’t notice a small pill. Wet food has a stronger fragrance than dry kibble and can make your dog even more excited to eat, especially if it’s not something that they usually get.

golden retriever dog eating healthy dry food from bowl at home
Image Credit: AYO Production, Shutterstock

2. Hide the Pill in a Treat

If your dog notices the medication in their food and picks it out, try using something particularly tasty. Putting the pill in a treat, like peanut butter or cheese, can help get them to swallow it.

3. Use a Pill Pocket

Pill Pockets or Pill Pouches are commercial treats shaped to hold medication. You place the pill inside, squeeze it shut, and give it to your dog. Although these can be a bit expensive and don’t work for all dogs, Pill Pockets might work for you and be one of the easiest ways to get your pet to swallow a pill.

rewarding dog with a treat
Image Credit: Rob kemp, Shutterstock

4. Crush the Pill

If your vet approves, you can crush the pill and mix it with a small amount of wet food or a liquid treat. If the pill doesn’t have a strong flavor, this can be a great way to get picky dogs to take their medication, as they won’t be able to eat around it.

5. Manually Administer the Pill

If hiding the pill in food or treats isn’t working, you will need to manually administer the pill by physically placing it in their mouth.

  • Have the pill ready in one hand so you’re not searching for it after you’ve got your dog in position.
  • Gently place your dog in a comfortable and secure position. For small dogs, you may want to hold them in your lap. For large dogs, having them sit in front of you is often the best choice. If your dog is particularly wriggly, you might need someone to help hold them gently but firmly.
  • Use your non-dominant hand to grasp the upper jaw, placing your thumb and fingers on opposite sides of the mouth behind the canine teeth.
  • With your dominant hand, press lightly on your dog’s lower jaw with your thumb and index finger to open their mouth. Some people find it easier to tilt their dog’s head back slightly to encourage them.
  • Quickly place the pill as far back over the tongue as possible, aiming for the center of the tongue to minimize the chance of your dog spitting out the pill. The farther back you can get the pill, the better because it triggers their swallowing reflex. If there is a chance of being bitten, instead try dropping the pill into that area.
  • Immediately close your dog’s mouth, hold it closed gently, and stroke their throat or blow on their nose to get them to swallow.
  • Watch for swallowing movements or licking of the lips, which usually means they swallowed the pill.
  • Gently reopen the mouth to ensure that the pill is gone. If not, you will need to try again.
  • Once your dog swallows the pill, give them a treat to let them know that they did the right thing and to help make it easier next time.
Owner giving medicine in a pill to his dog
Image Credit: Creative Cat Studio, Shutterstock

6. Use a Pill Gun

If you are reluctant to put your fingers into your dog’s mouth when manually administering medication, you can use a pill gun. This simple tool works almost like a syringe and makes it easy to place the pill exactly where you need it without putting your fingers in danger.

7. Consult Your Vet

If you have tried all these tips and tricks and are still unable to get your pet to swallow their pills, you will need to contact the vet. They may be able to provide additional guidance specific to your pet or switch them to a different medication that your pet likes better.

veterinarian examines a chihuahua puppy
Image Credit: OLESYA BOLTENKOVA, Shutterstock

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What Is the Best Way to Give a Pill to My Dog?

The best way to give a pill to your dog will depend on their personality and preferences. Some dogs will be fussier about the food that they eat than others, and the pickier they are, the harder it can be to get them to take their medication. Negative past experiences will also make them less likely to want to consume a pill in the future.

How Can I Tell If My Dog Has Swallowed the Pill?

Watch for swallowing motions, or check their mouth after administering the pill. Offering water or a treat afterward can also help ensure that they swallow it.

What Are the Signs of an Adverse Reaction to Medication in Dogs?

Signs of an adverse reaction to medication can include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, rash, difficulty breathing, or facial swelling. Contact your vet immediately if you notice any of these signs.

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While getting your dog to take a pill can be a struggle at first, with a bit of practice, it becomes easier. Every dog is different, though, and what might work for one might not work for another. However, in most cases, hiding a pill in a Pill Pocket or a piece of cheese is a great idea because these are available in many varieties, so it’s easier to find something that your dog will eat. Manually giving a pill to the dog is sometimes the only way that they will take it, but this isn’t hard to do once you get over your initial fears, and using a pill gun can also help.

Featured Image Credit: Liudmyla Guniavaia, Shutterstock

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