How to Give a Dog a Pill

How to Give a Dog a Pill: Best Ways to Give Your Dog Oral Medicine

Sometimes, being a dog owner means caring for your pup when they are not well – whether this is a short-term issue or a long-term illness. And often this means giving your dog pills which have been prescribed by the vet. Unfortunately, you can’t explain to your pooch that taking these pills are in their best interest. Many dogs are averse to taking their medicine, which can prove to be a huge challenge when all you want to do is help your dog get better again.

To help you out in getting your dog to take their pills, we have compiled a list of some of the most common strategies of how to get a dog to take a pill which have proven to be effective in this field. You can try out the different approaches to find the one which works best for you and your pooch. It may prove that you need to use several different strategies as your dog becomes used to one and knows what is coming.

Professional veterinarian giving pill

Strategy One: Hide the Pill in Food

Probably the most commonly used strategy of giving dogs pills is to simply ‘trick’ your dog into taking their medication by hiding it in food. However, you need to bear in mind that not all pills are safe to take with food, so you need to ensure that the ones you are giving are before using this technique. If you have the kind of dog who loves to wolf down their food without paying much attention to it, this is a strategy that is likely to work well. The risk comes if your dog is a more careful eater as they are more likely to bite into the pill and taste some of the unpleasant medication contained within.

There are a number of different common foodstuff that people try to use including chunky peanut butter, plain yogurt, or chicken breast. Choose something which your dog enjoys eating the most and you are more likely to enjoy some success. Alternatively, you have the ingenious Pill Pockets, which are a soft treat with a hole inside for the pill to go. The treats are easily malleable to ensure that the pill is properly hidden. On the downside, this is a more expensive route to go down. Also, if your dog suffers from allergies or food sensitivities, you may need to be more careful. Some dog owners have reported success using marshmallows as a budget alternative to Pill Pockets as these are low in calories. But always be careful not to offer your pooch too many sweet treats.

Related Post: Best Dog Food for Allergies

Strategy Two: Introduce Some Competition

One strategy of giving tablets to dogs which may prove effective if you have more than one dog in your house is this one: You can try gathering them together and offering out dog treats at the same time. The spirit of competition is likely to make your dogs eat quicker in an effort to get as much as possible. Once they are enjoying their food, you can slip a treat with the pill inside to the sick dog. However, you need to be especially careful that you give the pill to the right dog! And if you have a pet who is more aggressive with getting their food, this may not be the best choice of strategies.

Strategy Three: Put the Pill in the Back Your Dog’s Mouth

Before you use this method of giving dogs medication orally, you need to be especially confident that you are not at risk of getting bitten by your dog. You will need to grasp your dog’s lower and upper jaw behind their canine teeth. When your fingers and in position and you are not at risk of getting bitten, you can slowly pull apart their jaws. As soon as you open them up around two or three inches, you can then put the pill at the back of their mouth. If you have someone else helping out, this will probably make the job easier. You should feel your dog swallow soon after. If you are struggling to get your dog to swallow, you could try massaging their neck area. Sometimes, blowing air on their face also helps. Be careful with putting the pill on your dog’s tongue as they will probably try and spit it back out again.

Strategy Four: The Bait and Switch

Some dogs really don’t like taking their medication and will become wise to you putting it in food. For them, you need to make an extra special effort. You should start in the usual way by hiding the treat in food out of your dog’s sight. Wash your hands afterwards to prevent your hound from smelling the residual medication on your fingers. Grab a couple of other treats which don’t contain the pills. Now, in quick succession, you can give your dog a treat without the pill, before offering another treat containing the pill, and finishing up with another ‘pure’ treat. When you are using a strategy like this, it is important that your dog doesn’t suspect that anything is up. Speak to your dog in a happy and excited tone of voice, offering them plenty of praise and love.

Another possibility in a similar style of easy ways to give dogs pills is to tempt your dog into taking the pill by dressing it up as forbidden fruit. Many dogs often want to try and eat off your plate, so you could put the pill-infused treat on a plate and ‘accidentally’ leave it on the floor. Your dog may end up taking the medication without thinking too much about it.

Strategy Five: Turn it into a Game

One of the best ways to give a dog a pill is to turn the whole thing into a game. Some dogs love to catch things that you throw up into the air, so you can try this with treats. After you have done this with a few regular treats, you will get them into a rhythm. You can then offer them the treat with the medicine inside. The idea is that they are so distracted with the game that they won’t even notice when you throw them the treat with the pill inside. Alternatively, you could try practicing some basic commands like ‘sit’ and ‘stay’ using treats. Again, start them off with a couple of regular treats, before introducing the one with the pill inside.

Sick dog Jack Russell and tablets

Strategy Six: Try Compounded or Liquid Medication

If you have a dog who really struggles with taking pills, you can sometimes opt for medication which comes in the form of a flavored compounded format or chewable treat. However, you should bear in mind that medication that comes in this form is often more expensive. Speak to your vet as compounding certain medication may end up reducing its effectiveness. But you may find that getting dogs to take pills in this manner proves to be effective. There are plenty of pharmacies out there that will compound the medication for you if this is the path that you choose to go down.

Strategy Seven: Use a Pill Gun

A piece of equipment which may help you in your quest to give your dog their medication is a pill gun. Essentially, this consists of the barrel of the gun which is a plastic straw where you can load a pill. You will need to open your pet’s mouth using a similar method that we discussed in strategy three. Once it is in position, you can then ‘shoot’ the pill to the back of your pet’s throat. One of the main advantages of this method is that is means that you don’t have to put your hand directly in your dog’s mouth and risk getting bitten. Also, it may provide that extra bit of firepower if you find that dropping the pill into their mouth isn’t working and they keep spitting it out over and over again.

Final Thoughts

Getting your dog to take their pills is a tricky but necessary task. Ultimately, it helps to get a little creative in your approach. You may find that a single strategy yields positive results, or you need to continue changing to keep your pooch on their toes. Try some of the different methods above of how to give a dog a pill. If nothing seems to work, speak to your vet to see if they can come up with anything or give you some useful pointers. It also sometimes helps to have another person present on the task. They can aid you in different ways such as holding your dog down or distracting them. This may end up being a bit of a stressful situation for your dog, so you should give them a reward after they have successfully taken their medication.


  1. Denise Flaim, Tricks to Giving Your Dog Eye Medication, Whole Dog Journal
  2. Ernest Ward, DVM, Giving Pills to Dogs, VCA Hospitals
Dr. Travis McDermott

Dr. Travis McDermott is a small animal veterinarian that has been practicing for nearly 15 years in Las Vegas, NV. Dr. McDermott was born and raised in the great State of Texas and grew up on an emu farm raising chickens and pigs for 4H and FFA. He attended Texas A&M University for both undergraduate and DVM studies.After graduation in 2006, Dr. Travis McDermott started practicing at Tropicana Animal Hospital in Las Vegas, NV. In 2012, he took over as hospital director of Durango Animal Hospital – one of the largest veterinary hospitals in Las Vegas. Dr. McDermott treats dogs and cats as well pretty much any exotic animal that walks in the door. His interests include surgery, dental procedures, and ultrasound, but his main passion is endoscopy. Since becoming a veterinarian, Dr. McDermott has served as a board member and president/chair of both the Nevada Veterinary Medical Association and the American Veterinary Medical Association Political Action Committee and currently serves on the board of the Viticus Group (formerly Western Veterinary Conference).

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Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.