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How to give dogs medication

Ah, the dreaded pill; the one that makes your dog flee for cover and hide behind the love seat. Though something pet parents dread, here are a few tips for helping Fido swallow a pill and move on with wagging, playing, napping, and all the other fun things dogs do.

* Ask the veterinarian if a chewable form of medication is available; sometimes tablets are flavored and able to be chewed.

* In moderation, I used soft cheese or cream cheese to coat a pill when my Cocker Spaniel required frequent medication for ailments as she aged.

* Some dogs are major spitters; as soon as the pill goes it, the familiar “pat-ooey” follows. Wrapping the pill in a piece of hot dog or another food Fido’s tummy can handle may do the trick.

* Ask the veterinarian if the pill is crushable and if this is safe for dogs. Sometimes medication can lose its efficacy if its original form is changed. I am not a fan of sprinkling the pill on food, as this may create a finicky eater and/or food disdain. Sprinkling it on or in a strong-smelling food (i.e. peanut butter) may help.

* Have a party afterwards (i.e. “good boy, Fluffy!!!) and show your enthusiasm. Dogs thrive on positive reinforcement. If you are happy, they are happy.

* Unless a negative result ensues, sometimes showing your dog the syringe or pill first so they can sniff it takes much of the anxiety out of the process. If someone approached me with a foreign object, opened my mouth and proceeded to shove it in without warning, I’d hide behind a couch, too.

* Administer a treat first to encourage saliva production. Ever so gently open your dog’s mouth, place pill on back of tongue, close his mouth and hold the snout up, very gently. I’ve learned to puff ever so gingerly on my dog’s (not a sharp blow, but a soft puff) for swallowing to ensue. Sometimes lightly massaging the throat will encourage a swallow.  (note: I’ve also used a soft piece of cheese or treat before and after for those hard-to-swallow times).

* Double check to ensure the pill is gone, as some dogs walk away and spit the pill and/or cheek it. You know what a chewed pill tastes like. Never force a dog or become frustrated. Dogs sense our anxiety, and the process will be more difficult.

* Liquid medications are best administered with a syringe. Be sure there is no air in the syringe (you will see an air bubble) once the medication is in. Your veterinarian should provide accurate dosing instructions and the amount of cc’s to administer. NEVER give a dog a liquid (or any) medication without veterinary clearance.

* Use caution with “hide a pill” treats, as the labeling may indicate wheat or other potential allergens. You don’t want to end one problem with medication only to create another with an allergy or stomach upset.

Have you discovered any tips or tricks to giving pills to dogs? Do tell…




  1. Snoopy@snoopysdogblog says

    Ooooh this is a topic Mum and I know all about…..

    I got sick and needed medication and I think she probably tried nearly every trick on your list there – however, I’m not easily fooled and I knew she was up to Mischief – I could even find it in the Peanut Butter…… 🙂

    Mum’s just grateful that the heartworm medication tastes good and she gives me it and pretends it’s a treat, so I sit and then she hands it over….. 🙂

    Hope you’re all having a fun day,

    Your pal Snoopy 🙂

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