Staying Healthy

How to Give Your Dog a Pill

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Some dogs will eat just about anything. I once had a dog eat through about 24 feet of drywall as if it were made of juicy steak tips. And yet, every time I tried to give her a pill, she spat it out as if it were made of… well, drywall. Getting your dog to swallow a pill isn’t all that hard, it just requires a little finesse, maybe a little trickery, and some really tasty treats.


If you’ve got a dog that gobbles up dinner in seconds, use that to your advantage. If the pill you need him to take is the flavored, chewable kind, even better! Just crumble it up and mix it in with your dog’s daily meal. If she turns up her nose, try mixing in a bit of canned dog food or a gravy pet food topper to mask the smell and flavor.

Remember, don’t break, crush, or grind your dog’s medications without first checking with your veterinarian. Some medications are designed to be released slowly as they dissolve, and breaking or crushing them can damage the time-released structure of the pill.

If you’re a dog owner whose pet gobbles down treats without a second thought (did he even chew that one?), consider yourself lucky! For those voracious treat eaters, disguising a pill inside a cube of cheese, wrapping it in lunch meat, or coating it in peanut butter is often enough to get it down.

But, if your dog is a little more cautious, here’s a trick that almost always works. Find a treat that your dog can’t resist, something really tasty, really, smelly, and soft enough to stuff a pill into. We recommend cubes of cheese, pieces of hot dogs, or even Pill Pockets or Pill Paste treats designed especially for pilling a dog. With about 4 pieces of the irresistible treat in your hand, offer an un-stuffed piece to your dog. If it’s something he loves, he’ll quickly look to you for another one. Give him a second un-stuffed treat. When he looks up at you for another, slip him the medicated treat. Now, before he’s had a chance to notice or has even finished up the third, medicated treat, offer the fourth. He should quickly swallow the pill to make sure he doesn’t miss out on what’s coming.


Unfortunately, some dogs are so resistant to taking pills, have figured out our game, or simply can’t be tricked. When all else fails, you’ll need to insert the pill directly into his mouth and coax him into swallowing it. Here’s how:

1. Always use a pill gun (also known as a pill syringe or pill popper) to manually give a dog a pill. Never put your hands into a dog’s mouth.

2. With your dog in a sit position, hold his head up, with his nose pointed toward the ceiling. 

3. With one hand on your dog’s lower jaw, and the other on the top jaw, open your dog’s mouth and very quickly insert the pill, as far back as you can and off to one side of his tongue.

4. Quickly withdraw the pill gun and, with his head still pointed toward the ceiling, close your dog’s mouth.

5. Hold his mouth closed with one hand while gently stroking his throat in a downward motion with the other, coaxing him to swallow.

6. As soon as your dog has swallowed the pill, immediately offer him a favorite tasty treat, both to reward him for taking the pill and to encourage him to swallow again.

If you find pilling your dog to be too stressful for him or simply impossible, talk to your veterinarian about other options and the availability of a liquid version of his medication.

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