How to Give a Dog a Pill: Tips for Making It Easy & Fun

How to Give a Dog a Pill
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When you have a dog, they become a part of your family. That being said, there may come a time when your pup may need to receive medication in the form of a pill. Getting some humans to take a pill is exasperating in and of itself, but your dog?! We know this may seem like a daunting task, but learning how to give a dog a pill is necessary if you want to keep your furry friend happy and healthy.

Whether you are trying to prevent fleas and ticks, giving an antibiotic, or treating something more serious, these tips on how to give a dog a pill can help the process go smoothly.

The Key to Your Dog’s Heart? Their Tummy

We all know that dogs love a good treat, so why not use this to your advantage and serve up your dog’s medicine on a silver platter? Well… not really, but you get the point. 

Head to Your Kitchen

Spoonful of Treats
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The first step is to find a food that your dog loves, of course. Common foods for administering a pill to your dog include peanut butter, cheese, and wet dog food. Foods like yogurt and ice cream are a great choice as well, and because of their texture, they can help the pill go down more smoothly. 

Are you ready? Let’s see how to give your dog a pill using food. 

1. Put the pill inside of the food you have chosen:

  • Cheese: wrap it around the pill
  • Cheese stick: push the pill inside of it
  • Peanut butter/cream cheese/or any spreadable food: spread it all over the pill, covering it as best as you can
  • Yogurt/ice cream: put the pill inside a bowl or put the pill on a spoon and cover it with the yogurt/ice cream.

2. Don’t just go straight in. Warm your dog up to the idea first. Try giving your dog regular treats as an “appetizer” before giving them the food that actually has the pill in it. 

3. Make a scene! When you get excited, your dog gets excited! Build up the suspense in your dog, let them know a treat is coming, and once you have their full attention — start giving up the goods. 

4. Take it outdoors! Taking your dog for a walk while you try to give medication might be a good idea! Dogs love being outside, and this can serve as an excellent distraction for them. Don’t forget to bring other treats with you to warm them up to the idea of eating.

Not Big on People Food? Head to The Store

Not everyone likes to give their dog table food, and that’s okay!

Greenies makes pill pockets that come in a wide variety of flavors. All you have to do is slide your dog’s pill inside of the treat. Companies like Tomlyn and PetMD make pill pastes that you can use to spread over your dog’s pill to mask the bitter taste that medication can sometimes have. 

Your Dog is Smart!

Using food to help you give your dog pills is a great choice for dogs that love to gobble their food down without chewing. If your dog is one to do a lot of investigating before taking their first bite, this method might not be the right one. Why? They’ll find the pill and eat around it. Or, if you’ve already gotten the pill in their mouth, they’ll just spit it out.

How To Give A Dog A Pill Without Food

Let’s face it. Sometimes there is absolutely nothing that you can do to get your dog to take a pill. Your dog is smart. They seem to sense when the pill is coming, and every single time you try to get them to eat it with food — they find it! Here’s the situation — you may need to administer the medicine orally to your dog… how?

One way is to get someone else to help you by (gently) restraining your dog and holding their mouth open. This method works very well if you have been trying to figure out how to give a small dog a pill because the other person can pick the dog up and hold them while you give your dog their pill. With larger dogs, this will take a bit more effort as you can’t just pick them up.

One way, of course, is to just put the pill directly into your pup’s mouth; this is also called “pilling.” A quick YouTube search or a chat with your vet can help you understand how to pill your dog. Be careful! You don’t want your dog accidentally biting down on your hand while trying to do this. Having a friend to hold your dog’s mouth open can be a big help. Also, there are several pet pill guns on the market that can help with this process. You can utilize these tools with or without liquid, and help to project the pill into your dog’s mouth. The liquid, of course, helps the pill go down with ease. 

I’m Ready To Put The Pill In My Dog’s Mouth, Now What?

Whether you use the pill gun or you put the pill directly into your dog’s mouth, you have to make sure the pill makes it past “the hump” in your dog’s mouth. What is the hump? Well, dog’s tongues have a hump, and the pill needs to make it behind the hump in order to go down the throat and reduce the likelihood of being spit out.

The pill gun works like a slingshot and shoots the pill right into the back of your dog’s mouth. If you are doing it by hand, take care to get past the hump to ensure that your dog will swallow the pill.

Again, if you have a partner helping you, this can go a bit more smoothly. Once you’ve got the pill in your dog’s mouth and past the hump, close your dog’s mouth and rub on its throat in a downward motion, which will encourage the swallowing of the pill.

How to Give a Dog a Pill: A Few Pointers

How to Give a Dog a Pill - Easy Delivery
Image by Canva Photos

No matter how you choose to give your dog his or her pill, here are few key pointers to consider:

  • Know what type of pill you have to give your dog. Knowing how to give a dog a capsule pill can differ from how to give your dog a pill that is not encapsulated. 
  • Talk to your vet. Your veterinarian can give you pointers on the different methods and will probably be glad to demonstrate for you. Your vet can also let you know if the pill can be crushed up or broken into smaller pieces, which can make it easier to give your dog their medication. While you’re there, ask your vet about flavored medication. Some medications are available in both pill and liquid form. If your dog’s medication is available as a liquid, sometimes the pharmacist or vet can add flavor to help your dog take to it more easily. 
  • Wash your hands! Dogs have a way better sense of smell than us humans. If you touch your dog’s pill in any way, wash your hands after handling it. Whether you are trying to pill your dog or give it with food/dog treats, if your dog smells the pill on your hand, they may refuse to take anything from you. 

The Bottom Line

You know your dog best. Think about your dog’s demeanor, what they like, and use that knowledge to help you figure out the best way to give your dog their medication. Be very careful if you choose to pill your dog. Avoid being aggressive when restraining them as you may scare them and trigger them to get defensive. You also don’t want to put your hand too far into their mouth; just in case your dog gets scared or nervous and bites down — we want you to keep all 10 fingers throughout this process!

Your dog knows that you love them and want what’s best for them, so be sure to give lots of back scratches, hugs, and doggy kisses after you get the pill down your dog’s throat successfully!


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