Giving Oral Medication & Pills to Your Dog: Tips & Tricks

Once you bring a dog into your family, you are responsible for their care and well-being. As such, you might find your dog requires oral medications or pills that can prove quite tricky to administer. Your pet may need medication to live a happy and comfortable life, and while not all pets make this an easy task, we have some tips & tricks you can use to help make “pill time” a happy and positive experience.

Use these tips and tricks to help the medicine go down smoothly:

Get Everything Ready

First, organize all medications at-the-ready so you can reach them easily. If you need to give your pet liquid medication, read the instructions and have the right dose ready within the syringe. For pills and capsules, take them out of the packaging and place them within reach.

Stay Calm and Relaxed

This is arguably the most important step, but also likely the most difficult. If you are nervous your pet will pick up on those negative emotions. With this in mind, relax, and calmly approach your pup like you always would. Call them to come to you and carry or walk them over to the area you have everything set up. Try to view this as a simple task that has to be carried out for the sake of your dog’s health. Once you are both feeling companionable, you can begin the process.  

Choose a Safe Corner

If you tend to find your dog is a runner, choose a safe corner where you can make it harder for them to run away. Using the shape of a room to your advantage allows you to reach them easily, while avoiding being overbearing. Smaller dogs might be easier to manage if you put them on a table or counter. This allows you to avoid having to bend over so you can reach their mouth more easily.

Position Yourself Properly

The best position is to use one hand to hold your dog’s muzzle so you can use your fingers and thumb to open the corners of their mouth. Then gently tip your pup’s head back so you can use your fingers to squeeze behind their upper teeth. This will allow you to open their jaw a bit more by pushing on their front lower teeth.

How To Give A Dog a Capsule Pill

Try to place the medication as far back on their tongue as possible so it is harder for them to spit it out, or for it to fall out of their mouth. Just be certain you don’t go too far back as you can choke or gag your dog which will cause them to spit out the medication. If you want to make it a little less unpleasant, you can wrap the pills in cheese, meat, or bread. This way, they might not recognize they are actually being given medicine. Just ask your vet first as some medications can’t be taken with cheese.

How To Entice a Dog To Swallow a Pill

To help them swallow and make it difficult for them to spit out the medication, lower their head and wrap your fingers around their muzzle to keep their mouth closed. Be gentle. You can then rub their nose or even blow on it to help get them to swallow.

Liquid Medication

For liquid medication, you won’t need to tilt your pup’s chin upwards. Instead, put the syringe into the side of their mouth being sure you are just past their teeth and then squirt a small amount. Let them swallow and then give them another squirt and repeat until the syringe is empty.

Positive Reinforcement

Your pet loves praise, and now is the time to shower them with love and affection. If they managed to swallow the medicine, use your happy voice to let them know they did well. You can also give them a treat as a reward, but speak to your vet about this in case the medication shouldn’t be taken with food. The more pleased you appear, the more likely they will be to accept the medication the next time around.  

Pill Masking with Pet-Safe Foods

Among the easiest ways to get your pet to receive medication is to hide it in something delicious. Consider some of the pet-safe foods that are likely already in your kitchen! Our favorites include:

  • Peanut butter

  • Cheese

  • Banana

  • Soft meats such as hot dog, liverwurst, beef, turkey, or ham

What to Do If It Doesn’t Work

Because it is important your pet takes all of their medications as directed, if you feel they are not getting the full dose, ask for assistance from a family member. They can either help distract the dog or if the dog is squirming, hold them and help keep them calm. The trick is making sure everyone involved stays collected to help your dog stay calm. The added benefit of this approach is safety for both pets and pet-owners. By remaining composed, nips, occasional bites or injuries to the pet can be avoided.

If all your efforts fail, speak to your veterinarian. They can offer assistance to help ensure the medication is taken properly.