Dogs and medicine often don’t mix. Dogs don’t understand why you’re trying to get them to eat something unusual and the shapes and textures of pills don’t always make sense as food for your dog. Sadly, though, you can’t really talk your dog through why he or she needs medication. Instead, you’re going to have to figure out how to trick your dog into taking a pill.
The good news is that you are far from the first person to have to figure out how to medicate a dog. There are a number of tried and true methods that you can use to get your dog to take the meds he or she needs, along with some basic advice that can make most pills go down more easily.
If you’re wondering how to get a dog to take a pill and looking to help ensure that your dog gets the medication he or she needs, though, you’ll definitely want to start by using the following items to hide your dog’s pills.
The Best Items for Hiding a Dog’s Pills
Peanut butter has a lot of things going for it when it comes to hiding medication. It’s got a strong taste and smell, which means that most pills won’t be noticed by your dog. It’s also relatively easy to work with, so you can hide a pill of almost any side inside of the substance. Perhaps most importantly, though, most peanut butter is safe for dogs and most dogs love it to the extent that they’re not going to question the fact that they’re getting an extra treat.
Note that you’re probably going to want to use smooth peanut butter here, as crunchy varieties could cause your dog to bite down on the pill and discover its existence. This isn’t a problem for all dogs, but it will cause some dogs to spit out the medication and leave you scrambling for a solution.
It shouldn’t be too surprising that many of the best dog treat brands have come up with their own solutions for helping your dog to take pills without noticing the taste. There are a few different brands out there that use different types of pill pockets, which are special soft treats that are designed to hold pills. Most are fairly tasty for dogs and do a great job of hiding pills a the same time.
If you do use a pill pocket, make sure to mold the product around the pill. This further hides the pill from your dog and keeps him or her from tasting the medication. In many cases, though, your dog will be so excited about the treatment that he or she won’t really stop to investigate what’s in the pill pocket.
Dogs absolutely love sausage treats. If you’ve got access to a good, dog-safe sausage that you can cut up and give to your pet, you’ve got access to a kind of home-made pill pocket that can do a fantastic job of helping to hide your dog’s pills. The only thing you’re really going to have to worry about here is what’s in the sausage.
Unfortunately, many sausages are filled with ingredients that just don’t play well with a dog’s digestive tract. You want something that is as close to pure meat as possible, with no garlic or onions added to the mix. Failure to do so could make your dog sick and put him or her even more off of taking pills in the future.
Cheese is one of the big go-to choices for dog owners that need to give their pets medication. Some choose cheese cubes that they can mold around a pill, while others go with a standard slice of American cheese molded around the medication. Regardless of your choice, your dog is going to be happy with what you’ve brought him or her.
Be aware of how your dog reacts to cheese, though. Start with small bits at first and never give your dog too much at one time. The last thing you want is for your dog to get properly medicated but to have a sick stomach.
Chicken and Salmon Skin
Crispy bits of skin can hide an awful lot from your dog. Whether you are using what’s leftover from your own meal or you cook it on your own, you can wrap this kind of skin around your dog’s pills and hand it to him or her as a treat. This might not be the right fit if you’re trying to help your dog lose weight because of the high fat content with the skin included (1), but it is a good choice for those who tend to be picky about pills.
Yes, treats can be a good way to get your dog to take a pill. The secret here is to find a good, soft treat that can be easily molded around your dog’s medication. You can think of this as kind of a DIY pill pocket, as it does basically the same thing as the more expensive option.
Don’t give your dog too big of a treat here, though. The bigger the treat, the more time your dog will spend chewing. Small treats make it more likely that your dog will just swallow the pill.
Canned Dog Foods
Canned wet dog food can be another great way to get your dog to take a pill. Simply hide the pill within your dog’s food and wait for him or her to eat. If your dog is a quick eater, he or she probably won’t even notice the pill.
While some dog owners might crack open a capsule and spread the medicine in the food, this isn’t something that you should do without consulting your vet. Not all capsules can be broken if you want to ensure that the dog gets the full impact of the medication.
This kind of specialized syringe is a tool that’s made for people just like you. It’s designed to help get pills into the mouths of dogs who won’t make them any other way, but the process of using such a tool does take some work. The good news is, though, that the device will drop the pill right in the back of your dog’s mouth and force him or her to take the medication.
Tricking Your Dog
If you don’t want to give your dog extra food and you don’t want to invest in any odd devices, your best trick might be to perform some basic misdirection. Instead of giving your dog a pill within his or her treats, you’re going to give your dog a pill between treats. You’ll simply give your dog a few treats, then throw in a pill. Most dogs will be so conditioned to receiving a treatment that they won’t notice the difference.
Forcing the Pill
This is the last resort for most dog owners, but it is effective. You’re basically weaponizing your dog’s physiology at this point, so be prepared for a little bit of a fight. The good news is that this won’t hurt your dog and it will be quite effective.
You will start by opening your dog’s mouth and putting the pill on the back of his or her tongue. Close your dog’s mouth and then rub his or her tongue – when he or she sticks his or her tongue out, you should see that the pill is gone. This isn’t a great choice if your dog is a biter, of course, but it does work with most dogs.
Basic Pill Tips
There are a few other things to keep in mind as you work to give your dog pills. These tips hold true regardless of the method you use and can help you to make giving your dog medication a little bit more pleasant for all involved.
The big one is that rich treats tend to work best. If they smell strong and taste great, your dog is never going to notice the pill’s existence. Working to find something that is smelly and tasty can be difficult, but even combining foods that have both qualities can go a long way towards helping your dog to be more receptive to a pill.
It’s also very important to make sure that medication time is as low-stress as possible. You need to make taking the pill fun if you can, or at least non-traumatic when you cannot. This means a lot of petting and affection no matter what technique you use, with a minimum of yelling or scolding. The less stressed your dog gets, the easier it will be for him or her to take a pill.
Finally, try to make sure that you’re taking the number of calories into each treat into account when you’re giving your dog a pill. While your dog might love his or her treats, they aren’t always as good for him or her as you might imagine. Those chicken skins and sausages can add up very quickly, so make sure that you are giving your dog treats sparingly even when you have to use them for medical purposes.
A Final Note on Veterinarians
All of the tips above are meant to work with fairly typical dogs. As you might imagine, though, there are some dogs who are just not going to be able to handle any of the tricks discussed above no matter how hard you try. As such, you do need to remember that you can reach out to your vet any time you feel overwhelmed with giving your dog medication.
Some dogs just aren’t going to take pills no matter how hard you try. You can always ask your vet if you can get your dog’s meds in the form of a capsule or liquid, either of which might go down a little more easily. The worst-case scenario is that your veterinarian can’t do anything to help here, so it’s always worth asking.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I get my dog to swallow a pill?
The easiest way to get your dog to swallow a pill is to find a way to hide it in something that he or she loves. Usually, a rich, smelly substance is best, so consider using anything from peanut butter to pill pockets to hide your dog’s pill. The goal should be to find something that your dog will eat quickly and with relatively little chewing, which will further help to hide the presence of a pill.
Can you crush pills for dogs?
The answer to this one largely depends on the medication. There are definitely some pills that can be crushed, while others need to stay intact for your dog to get the full benefit of the medication. You should definitely check your dog’s medication packaging to see if there are any warnings about crushing the pill and then follow up with your dog’s vet to see if that course of action will still be beneficial for your dog.
How can I trick my dog into medicine?
There area number of different ways to trick your dog into taking medicine. The easiest way to involve hiding the dog’s medication is something that will stop him from tasting or touching the medication until it is swallowed. If you’re not looking to hide the pill, you can also trick your dog by giving your dog a pill between the other treats or dog food that he or she is eating. Your dog can get so into the process of eating treats that he or she won’t notice that you’ve made a substitution.
What medicine can I use to sedate my dog?
There are several different products that you can use to sedate your dog. Not only are there over-the-counter dog sedatives that you can find in most big pet stores, but you can also use an appropriate dosage of Benadryl to sedate your dog. It’s always important to make sure that your dog is in good health before you give him or her any kind of sedative and to always follow the directions as to what kind of dosage should be given to your dog based on his or her weight and age.