How to Get Your Dog to Take Medicine

Have you ever tried to give your dog a pill and ended up with a handful of doggy slobber and a pill rolling on the floor and under the stove? When it comes to taking medicine, some dogs are fairly good at outsmarting their owners.

While my English Cream Golden Retriever Jake will pretty much put anything in his mouth and try to eat it, his brother Koda is a lot more fussy about what goes in and stays in. He’s been known to root out a pill no matter what I have put it in, including chicken, hot dogs, bananas, and even peanut butter.

Unlike in the movie Mary Poppins, a spoon full of sugar is not going to make the medicine go down for some dogs. And, sugar also is not good for them as it may lead to diarrhea, weight gain or even diabetes.

So what are your choices? Here are some ideas that might just work.


Pill Pockets

Greenies makes Pill Pockets Natural Dog Treats that come in a variety of sizes and flavors. This has been my go-to choice since my vet recommended them a few years back.

They are low-fat and made with natural ingredients. Flavors include chicken, hickory, peanut butter, cheese and even duck and pea formula. They also come in tablet and capsule size. They are nice and soft, so you can wrap them around the pill, making it more difficult for your dog to detect.

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 Greenies are among a number of different brands that can be used to hide pills.

They have a strong odor which is pleasant to the dog and helps to hide any hint of a smell that might come from the pill. I have the large capsule size and actually split it in two when giving my boys their pills.

Greenies is among the most popular, but there are a number of other brands that make similar products including Milk Bone’s Pill Pouches, which also wrap around the pill and come in similar flavors to the Greenies.

If you don’t mind shaping your own, Vetoquinol Pill Wrap Treats is a paste, so you can use as little or as much as needed to sneak in that pill. It’s more pricy than the pre-formed options and a bit messier, but those who use it say they can get a lot more bang for their buck.

Peanut butter, hold the jelly

It’s no secret that most dogs love peanut butter, so this is an option similar to the more expensive pill wraps. But be warned, some peanut butter contains xylitol, a sugar substitute that is being added to more and more products and which can prove deadly for dogs. Xylitol can trigger hypoglycemia (low blood glucose) and even cause liver failure. Symptoms include: vomiting, weakness, lethargy, loss of coordination and seizures. Always read the label before offering your dog peanut butter.

The downside I found with peanut butter is that it can stick to the roof of your dog’s mouth or to his teeth, which in the case of my dog causes a great deal of frustration. He will spend a lot of time just trying to get it out. While this is amusing to my kids, it’s not so much fun for him.

Dogs are smart, so with any of these aforementioned products, you might want to give them a few without the pills at first and make it seem like it’s a fun treat time. If he figures out too quickly what you are trying to do, this may defeat the purpose. My vet suggested giving him one treat without the pill, follow it quickly with the pill, and then give another without the pill as a reward.

Shoot it down

If you prefer not to use food, there’s always the pill gun. While I have used these successfully to administer pills to my cats, I haven’t had as much luck with my dogs. Once they see it coming, they clam up. However, there are a number of different brands available and they are relatively inexpensive, so if it doesn’t work, you haven’t lost a lot of money.

Pill poppers do as their name suggests. You put the pill in the soft rubber tip and once inside the dog’s mouth and near the throat, you press the plunger and down it goes.

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Pill poppers are an alternative for those who don’t want to put their hand into a dog’s mouth.

The LIYU Dogs and cats Medicine Feeder has a tip that holds even the smallest pills and expands as needed. This option works well for dogs that don’t mind opening their mouth for you. However, if you have a stubborn pup, you might have a hard time prying open his mouth to get it in. I have had some success putting the pill gun in through the side of Koda’s mouth, but getting it through clenched teeth is another story.

Flavor it

If you have children, then you know there are some pharmacies that offer medications in flavors that are more palatable. Some big chain drug stores and compounding pharmacies offer to flavor your dog’s medication. I found one that offered red angus beef, crispy bacon and peanut butter flavorings, to name a few.

Some dogs are simply too clever for their own good. If none of these products work, you can try it the old fashioned way. Grasp your dog’s upper jaw, open his mouth and place the pill as far back on the tongue as possible, then rub under their chin to make sure it went down. This works well with dogs who are not aggressive or stubborn.

The downside is that some dogs, like mine, will learn what’s coming and clench their teeth, making it impossible to get anything into their mouth.

With so many options available to give your dog, hopefully one of these is the right one for you.

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