How to get a dog to take a pill: Pomeranian with a tablet

Many vets will offered flavoured alternatives that may be more appealing to your pet. 

© Aleksandr Zyablitskiy/ Getty Images

How can I get my dog to take a pill? Tips and tricks to try

By Greta Inglis Dog Behaviourist | Animal Behaviourist

Published on the

If your four-legged friend is a fussy eater, getting them to take a pill can be challenging. Here's how to do it. 

Whether it's a worming tablet or medication, your dog will most likely have to take a pill at some point in their lives. 

This can prove tricky for owners, with many dogs able to outsmart even the most cunning of plans. 

Thankfully, there are lots of options when it comes to getting your dog to swallow a pill, but it's always important to check with your vet before you decide which route to take. The type of medication may affect the way in which your dog should take it.

What are the best foods to hide dog pills in?

While some pills can be crushed and mixed with your dog's food, this isn't always a possibility. Certain medication, such as the antibiotic amoxicillin, loses effectiveness if the tablet is crushed, and some dogs are masters at eating everything in their bowl apart from the tablet itself.

In these cases, it may be that you need to get creative as to how you hide the pill. Tasty treats are the way to go, and usually the smellier the better! 

Peanut butter (without xylitol!), plain yoghurt and sardines are all good options for disguising a pill, in addition to your dog's favourite treat. You'll want to make sure the medication is completely covered by the food or treat, to stop them tasting the pill.

How can I give my dog a pill without using food? 

Small treats may make the perfect disguise in some situations, but what are your options for medications that have to be taken on an empty stomach? 

The first port of call in these cases is to consult your vet, as it may be that they're happy for you to use a small amount of food to help the medicine go down. Many practices now also offer flavoured alternatives or liquid medication you can try. These are often more appealing to our four-legged friends, depending on how fussy your dog is. 

Using a pill pusher

If your dog has to take their medication without any food involved, you may want to consider investing in a pill pusher, also known as a pill gun. 

This handy little device is usually available from vet surgeries, to help owners administer medication. The little plastic tube is filled with a small amount of water, which helps the dog to swallow, and the tablet is then placed between the claws of the device

To get your dog to take the pill, you'll need to gently tilt your dog's head, and open their mouth. Pushing the end of the device will send the tablet to the back of the throat, ensuring your dog swallows. 

To make the experience a more positive one, you can replace the water with a small amount of the gravy from the regular canned food you feed your dog. When using the pill gun, take care to check the surrounding area to make sure they didn't spit the pill out

Can I open a capsule to give my dog a pill? 

Speak to your vet before opening a capsule to give your dog a pill, as they will advise whether this is possible.

A good alternative may be a gelatine capsule, which is an unflavoured outer shell, that a pill can be put inside. This masks any bitter tasting flavour or chalky texture, which can make your dog particularly reluctant to swallow the medication. 

Pill pockets are another option for fussy dogs. Made using natural ingredients, they mask the smell and taste of the capsule inside.  

Tricks to try 

If you share your life with a crafty canine, you may need to have a trick or two up your sleeve to convince them to take their medication. 

Wash your hands first

Dogs have an incredibly sensitive sense of smell, which means they may be able to smell a tablet that has been on your hands. Washing your hands or wearing gloves to prepare the medication can help prevent them working out what's coming next

It's also important to avoid creating a bad association with the rattle of a pill bottle. Open this away from your dog, and have some tasty treats on hand. This will help build positive associations. 

The treat game 

Armed with the tastiest of treats, you can make medication time a game for your four-legged friend. Prepare multiple pieces of food, one of which has a pill in the middle. Offer your dog a number of treats, in quick succession, adding the one with the pill in when they least expect it. Your dog will be eager to get to the next treat as quickly as possible, so they will be more likely to swallow the one with the tablet inside. 

Pretend to eat or drop it 

Anyone who shares their life with a canine companion will know how much dogs love what they can't have!

You can use this to your advantage when it comes to medication. Pretend to drop the treat on the floor, and watch how quickly your dog comes over to investigate the food they believe they weren't supposed to have. 

If this doesn't work, you can also pretend to eat the treat in question, subsequently offering it to your dog. Having seen you pretend to enjoy one may just encourage them to give it a go. 

The technique you use will depend very much on the dog in question and what your vet recommends, but hopefully these tips and tricks will help transform even the most uncooperative pup into the perfect patient. 

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