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What is the best way to give my dog a pill?

By Jessica Vogelsang, DVM


To put it simply, the best way to give your dog a pill is any way that gets him or her to swallow it. Seasoned pros may have the old “pop it in the mouth with one hand” trick down, but most people find that they may need to resort to more enticing methods to get the pills where they need to go.


Some medications come in a flavored chewable tab or liquid, with such enticing flavors as beef or cheese. Compounding pharmacies can often create medications that aren’t normally flavored with a better taste, though it’s often more expensive to get these medications made.


If you’re trying to give a not-so-tasty pill to a pet, bribery is most often the method of choice. People use all sorts of treats to get their pet to swallow a medication, from Cheez-Whiz to peanut butter to wrapped in baloney. While low-tech, this can also get messy, and depending on the dexterity of the pet in question, some dogs can manage to suck off all the good stuff while leaving the pill behind.


One of my favorite products is Pill Pockets, a small squishy envelope-shaped treat that allows you to slide a pill in, then squish it shut. Many animals take these easily and save you lots of time and wasted, drooly, melting medicine capsules. In response to the many pets with food sensitivities, they even come in hypoallergenic formulas.


If a medicine needs to be given on an empty stomach, you can pill a pet by placing it far enough back on the tongue that they can’t spit it out. This can be accomplished with a long device called a pill gun, or for the brave, your own hands. If you are in this situation, I recommend asking a technician at the veterinary office for lessons. They are the undisputed pros.


Disclaimer: This article was created in partnership with Greenies Pill Pockets. 


Comments  8

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  • Pills
    09/01/2015 08:23pm

    I put the medication in a ball of wet dog food (1 tbsp) along with the dry food. It works well with the chunks of meat.
    This way my male dog doesn't see it unless it my other female dog that we name 'superpif' which is french for very sensitive nose, then I would have to pop it in her mouth. I'd try.

  • Too smart....
    04/19/2016 03:20pm

    My dog Xena, who is 13year old Rottie, came down with a case of diarrhea from her pain meds. The GI track pill is the size of a 800mg motrin. Needless to say she won't eat liverwurst or peanut butter. I got sausages at the Polish deli so I try to cut a thick slice, cut that in half, slice a pocket and stick a third of the pill in. In the evening she seems to eat it all, but in the morning she's more fussy. This morning she chewed up the sausage and spit two of the three pieces out. I tried diluting the and squirting it in her mouth with a syringe. Huge mess; dog drool and liquid pill remnants everywhere from her shaking her head. Oh, and the pill is pretty discussing. I tasted it by accident and right away your gag reflexes start acting. Luckily only four more to go. This girl is too clever for her own good and this mom is giving up.

  • 05/12/2016 03:17pm

    Try putting the pill in a cooked bratwurst that always does the trick for my bullies

  • Makes more sense now
    04/25/2016 01:05pm

    Until I learned how powerful a dog's sense of smell is, I didn't know why my dog knew there were pills hidden in food. No matter how I try to trick her or how spicy or tasty the food is, she knows the pill is there and she can separate it out from the food and spit out the pill. They can smell it in there no matter what you put it in, so if they do take it, you haven't fooled them at all; they're humoring you is all. ;o)

  • Too smart
    05/22/2016 08:32am

    "Rascal" my 7 1/2 y/o toy poodle would not take a pill at all. I tried hiding it in cheese, peanut butter, hamburger meat, potted meat, and everything anybody told me to try. "Rascal" would suck off whatever the pill was hiding in and then spit the pill on to the floor. When Pill Pockets came out, I thought they were the best things since sliced bread. Needless to say, "Rascal" soon realized that there was some kind of medicine within that little slick treat I was giving him. He then learned to spit the pill out of the Pill Pocket. Now I'm back to the beginning again. HELP ME PLEASE !!!

  • Peanut Butter
    05/24/2016 01:33pm

    I tried Pill Pockets and they did not work for my dog. They are too big and the pill always came out. I found that just dipping the pill in peanut butter and having my dog lick it off my finger works great.

  • Peanut Butter
    05/24/2016 01:34pm

    I tried Pill Pockets and they did not work for my dog. They are too big and the pill always came out. I found that just dipping the pill in peanut butter and having my dog lick it off my finger works great.

  • Pill Pockets
    05/25/2016 09:03am

    I agree that even small size Pill Pockets are too big for a small dog. If my dog has to chew, she is more likely for find and spit out the pill. Instead I will buy the biggest size of pill pocket (or whatever is the best value) and then pinch off a small piece to wrap around the pill. Then my dog will just swallow it whole.

    A cheap alternative that works for me is cheese - something that can be shaped like cheddar or jack, but not mozzarella or a dry crumbly cheese. American cheese singles are perfect.

    If your dog is suspicious of a hidden pill, first give a small piece of the treat with no pill and then follow with the wrapped pill. Give the pill when your dog is hungry. The best tip is to have a second dog who is trying to get a bite of the treat. Then the first dog will gobble it quickly to keep it from being stolen!

    These work for maintenance medicine for a fairly healthy dog. The really hard situation is giving an antibiotic, for example, to a sick dog who doesn't want to eat anything. For that I had to stick it in the back of the mouth and then hold her jaws closed until she had swallowed a couple times.

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