🐱 NEW!

Introducing the Cat Food Advisor!

Independent, unbiased reviews without influence from pet food companies

How to Give a Dog a Pill

Andrew Dickens


Andrew Dickens
Andrew Dickens

Andrew Dickens


Andrew Dickens is an award-winning writer, editor and broadcaster with 20 years in journalism. He’s created compelling content on film and television, travel, food and drink, physical and mental health, business, sport, technology and politics. And, of course, dog food.

Read more

Updated: April 25, 2024

DogFoodAdvisor is reader supported See how

Dog Food Advisor is 100% impartial and is never paid to promote any brand. But if you buy using links on this page, we may earn a referral fee.

Getting your dog to take a pill or sit still for a syringe can be one heck of a battle. Most dogs will happily eat scraps from the garbage or drink water from the loo but when it comes to swallowing a pill, they draw the line.

So, what’s the secret? No one size fits all when it comes to medicating your dog — they’re all unique. This article explores various techniques, guided by Chewy pet pharmacy’s registered vet, Dr. Sarah Wooten, to help your furry friend take their medicine.

Read the instructions

When medicating your dog, your first responsibility is to make sure you understand the directions given. Some medicine is to be taken on an empty stomach, others with food.

There might also be warnings about combining particular medications, or side effects to watch out for. It’s vital to read the instructed label carefully and ask your vet if you have any uncertainties.

Hide your dog’s medication in their food

If your dog has been given a pill to take with their food, you (and they) are in for a treat as this is the easiest method of medicating your dog.

If possible, wait for your dog to be hungry and hide the pill in their regular food. Lucky pet parents will have dogs who gobble up their dinner without noticing the little surprise.

However, some dogs aren’t so easily tricked and this might be a little difficult if your dog is a kibble kind of canine.

Hide your dog’s pill in a treat

Often the most successful method is to hide the pill in a treat.

Dr. Wooten recommends hiding the pill in a tasty treat and then feeding your dog their regular meal afterwards. “This creates a positive association with pills in your dog’s mind, making them more willing to take medication in the future.”

Instead of offering your dog a wholesome carrot or apple slice, opt for something irresistible to mask the unwanted surprise. Hide the pill completely by molding it in treats like meatballs, cheese bits, a scoop of vanilla ice cream, or deli meats. This way, your dog won’t even notice or care about the medication inside.

“Use only a small amount of food so that it doesn’t require chewing,” says Dr. Wooten. “A dog who bites into a bitter-tasting pill may react by spitting it out.”

If your dog does spit it out, don’t worry. Try again in half an hour with a different treat and give them a few non-pill treats first.

What are alternative options for giving my dog medicine?

If your dog is still winning the pill battle, try pill pockets. They are soft, moldable dog treats designed to mask the taste and smell of medication. These treats can make it easier to hide the medicine, as they fully encase the pill. However, Dr. Wooden recommends checking with your vet as some brands are high in sodium, which could be problematic for dogs with heart or kidney disease.

Alternatively, try using a pet piller. This is a syringe-type tool aimed to deliver the pill deep into your dog’s mouth, making it harder to spit out and avoiding contact with their teeth.

Follow the instructions and administer the pill by holding your dog’s muzzle, inserting the pill popper gently, and encouraging swallowing. Don’t forget to reward them for being a good dog afterwards!

Can I give my dog medicine by hand?

You can get hands-on if necessary. However, take precautions, especially if your dog is in pain around the neck area. You can roll the pill in dog food gravy or butter if your vet approves, making it easier for your dog to swallow.

Choose a comfortable spot, shield the pill from your dog’s view, and hold it between your fingers. Gently hold your dog’s muzzle, tilt their head upward, and drop the pill at the back of their tongue. Close their mouth and return their head to normal. Massage their throat and gently blow on their nose to prompt swallowing.

What about giving dog other forms of medication?

If your dog’s medicine is given in liquid form, do not tilt your dog’s chin upward. Place the liquid-filled syringe into the side of the mouth, just past the lower teeth.

Slowly squirt small amounts into the mouth, pausing between squirts to allow your dog to swallow the medication without gagging or choking.

Pet medication can also come in the form of tasty liquids, flavored chewy tablets, lotions that can be rubbed easily or you can ask about injectables.

If you’re struggling to medicate your pet, ask your vet about such options as they can be easier alternatives to slipping a pill.

Tricking your dog into good health can be a challenge but one well worth it.

Final word

The Dog Food Advisor does not accept money, gifts, samples or other incentives in exchange for special consideration in preparing our reviews.

However, we do receive a referral fee from online retailers (like Chewy or Amazon) and from sellers of perishable pet food when readers click over to their websites from ours. This helps cover the cost of operation of our free blog. Thanks for your support.

For more information, please visit our Disclaimer and Disclosure page.

Share via
Copy link