Just like humans, pets often need to take their meds to help them stay healthy. Dogs need supplements to help them grow strong, or to help older dogs combat common medical conditions such as osteoporosis or joint issues. Dogs also need to take meds if they’re recovering from an injury or illness.
Offering your dog medication isn’t always easy, since most pets detest the taste and smell of medication. It can be hard to force a pet to take a pill, especially if you have a large dog that is reactive, afraid, or slightly aggressive.
Sadly, your furry friend’s life may depend on taking its medication, which is why it’s so important to learn how to give your dog a pill.
In this guide, we’re going to talk about how to properly give a dog a pill, as well as some of the best strategies to keep your pet healthy without causing trauma while administering medication.
Table of Contents
- Consult With Your Vet Before Offering Any Medication
- Ask for Tasty Meds
- How to Give a Dog a Pill When It Has an Appetite
- Are All Foods Safe to Offer with Pills?
- How to Give a Dog a Pill if It Won’t Eat
Consult With Your Vet Before Offering Any Medication
It’s important not to offer medication without consulting with your vet. True, there are many over-the-counter supplements that are perfectly safe for consumption, as long as you stick to the recommended dosages.
But it’s always best to contact your vet or to only offer prescribed medication if you’re treating a medical condition or illness in your pet. Animals are just as vulnerable to chemicals as humans are, and they can suffer terribly from negative side effects that the medications may cause.
Ask for Tasty Meds
Lots of modern supplements are disguised as tasty treats that dogs love to eat, and the same is true for some meds. If your dog isn’t having any of those chemical medications, then you should ask your vet about potential alternatives that taste and smell like food.
These tasty medications can help you eliminate lots of frustration and anxiety, especially if you have a rescue dog or an animal that’s prone to anxiety or aggression.
How to Give a Dog a Pill When It Has an Appetite
There will be times when you need to offer meds to a dog who still has an appetite, and there will be times when your dog feels ill and nauseated and might refuse to eat entirely. Naturally, it’s much easier to offer pills to a dog who still wants to eat because there are more strategies you can use, like disguising the pill in food.
Here’s a quick look at the best ways to offer a pill to dogs who’ll eat food.
Don’t let your dog see the medication
Dogs usually don’t like to be medicated. They might refuse medication, even if these meds don’t taste particularly bad. It’s always best not to let your dog know that you’re about to medicate them, because many dogs will run away and hide the moment they notice you reaching for the pillbox.
Wait until your dog has left the room before you take out the pill from the bottle or box.
Wash your hands
Dogs have a remarkable sense of smell. Their senses are highly advanced compared to humans’. Before you try to offer your dog medication, you should wash your hands. This will keep them from becoming suspicious and will make it much easier to fool a dog when you’re trying different tactics.
Place the pill inside a pill pocket
Pills that are very small or don’t have a particularly strong smell can be placed inside a pill pocket. Apill pocket is basically any food item that can disguise the taste, look, and smell of medication.
Grab foods your dog loves, such as sausages, soft raw meat cubes, or a block of cheese, and cut a small hole inside them. Place the pill inside the pocket and press it so it shuts properly. Now go and wash your hands so your dog won’t smell the medication.
If your dog is used to receiving snacks from you, then your dog probably won’t even notice the pill inside the pill pocket.
Use the “bait and switch” method
This is one of the most common techniques used to get a dog to accept a pill. Veterinarians also love this technique because it makes it so easy to offer meds to your dog. This is because most dogs are tempted by bribes and love to munch on small treats.
Here’s a quick look at the steps for this technique:
- To use the bait and switch method, simply hide the pill in food or a treat.
- Go and wash your hands so your dog won’t smell the medication.
- Get a few extra treats ready before you start offering the medication.
- When your dog is eager to accept food, start by offering the first treat that doesn’t have the pill. This is the bait.
- Now give the second treat that contains the pill – the switch.
- As a reward, you should offer a third, pill-less treat to reward your pet.
Use the “trick and treat” method
This technique can be more successful for dogs that quickly grow suspicious of the bait and switch method. It’s an ideal strategy to try if your dog is used to doing tricks for rewards.
Here are the steps to utilize this strategy:
- Grab a few treats and hide the pill in one of them.
- Wash your hands so your dog won’t be able to tell that you handled medication.
- Have your dog perform a trick or two and offer treats that don’t have any medication in them. The goal here is to distract your dog so it won’t be focusing on the food it receives, but the activity it’s doing.
- Once your dog starts to swallow the treats rapidly, switch over to a treat that has the pill inside it.
- Offer an additional treat after another trick to reward your dog for a job well done.
Use the “play fetch” method
This is a good strategy to use for a dog who’s great at catching food. Most dogs that can catch food and play fetch will swallow these pieces whole without a second thought.
Here’s a look at the steps for applying this technique:
- Prepare a few treats and hide the pill inside one of them.
- Wash your hands so your dog won’t grow suspicious.
- Toss a few treats without any meds at your dog so he or she can catch them.
- Once your dog starts growing excited and doesn’t hesitate anymore, you can toss the food that has the pill.
- If your dog successfully swallows the pill, you can offer an additional treat as a reward.
Try to just offer the pill
Some dogs have no problem accepting medication or supplements. Some are even clever enough to accept meds because they realize that they’re meant to help them feel better. If your dog has no anxiety issues, then you can try to offer the pill alone. If you’re lucky enough, your dog will accept it without any issues.
Crush the pill and mix it with your dog’s food
This is the best strategy for hiding pills that are too large to swallow or to easily hide in food items. Grab two teaspoons and crush the pill between the spoons. Once the pill is crushed into a fine powder, add the powder to your pet’s wet food bowl. Mix well and serve.
Ideally, you should first offer a small amount of food with the pill to ensure that your dog consumes the entire dose. You can then offer the rest of the food.
Are All Foods Safe to Offer with Pills?
Unfortunately, not all foods are safe to offer with medication. Some foods can have negative effects when offered with certain medications. It’s always best to speak with your vet about pill-safe foods before you create pill pockets for your dog.
There are, however, some foods that are usually pretty safe to offer along with medication, including the following:
Bananas – Safe for dogs who don’t have medical conditions such as diabetes, blood pressure problems, or heart diseases.
Dairy products – Safe for dogs who aren’t lactose intolerant, although some dairy products can have a negative effect on dog antibiotics.
Peanut butter – Safe, but it can be hard to hide a whole pill inside peanut butter. This can be a good treat to hide the powder of a crushed pill.
Cooked meat – Raw meats with medication can cause bacterial infections, but cooked meats are usually pretty safe for most medication types, as long as the meat doesn’t contain spices.
How to Give a Dog a Pill if It Won’t Eat
If your dog feels extremely ill, nauseous, or has a tummy ache, it likely won’t accept any food. This can make it very hard to get anything into your dog and impossible for you to get your dog to accept medication. There are also some medications that can’t be offered along with food.
If your dog is refusing all food, or if you have to give medication on an empty stomach, then you’ll need to administer the pill manually. Here are the best strategies to try:
Don’t let your dog see the pill
If your dog knows what’s coming, it’s likely to run and hide, and the last thing you want is to cause further anxiety when you’re trying to force a dog out from under a bed. Wait until your dog is out of sight before removing the pill from the bottle.
Wash your hands
Wash your hands before you call your dog closer or before you approach your dog. If your dog smells the medication, it might become afraid of what might be coming next.
Use the jaws technique
This technique is only suitable for small dog breeds or for gentle giants that aren’t likely to bite, no matter how traumatizing or terrifying the circumstances might be.
- In this technique, you’ll be forcing the pill into your dog’s mouth. Ideally, you should have your dog in an area where it can’t escape. This is exactly why vet tables are so high.
- Hold your dog firm and place one hand over the top of your dog’s nose bridge with the other hand around the jaw.
- Once your fingers are safely in place, force your dog’s jaw apart a little. Be careful not to hurt your beloved pet.
- Ask someone to help you insert the pill into the dog’s mouth. If you’re all alone, you can try to hold the pill between your index finger and middle finger while forcing your dog’s mouth open. You should now toss the pill as far back into your dog’s mouth as possible.
- Once the pill is inside your dog’s mouth, you should press the dog’s mouth shut gently but firmly. Wait until you feel the dog swallow before you let go.
- Remember to reward your dog for taking the pill with lots of praise.
Use a pill device to offer the meds
If your dog is prone to biting, or if your dog looks nervous, then it’s probably best to invest in a pill device before you try to offer medication. Instead of placing your hands inside your dog’s mouth, you should use the pill device to place the pill as far back into your dog’s mouth as possible.
Once the pill is in place, you can gently press down on your dog’s mouth so it’ll swallow the pill.
Offering medication to your dog isn’t always fun, but it’s a necessary task that every pet owner will need to do at some point or another. It’s always best to try some of the easier and more intuitive ways to get your dog to take its meds before you resort to the more hands-on techniques.
We hope you enjoyed this article on how to give a dog a pill. With these techniques, we’re sure that you and your dog will be just fine.