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11 Hacks to Get Your Dog to Take Medicine

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Dog Health By Ben Team 6 min read July 19, 2021 22 Comments

Dog Medicine Hacks
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If you’ve ever had to administer medicine to your pup, you probably already know that it isn’t always easy.

Thankfully over the years, dog owners, veterinarians, and pet food manufacturers have devised a number of techniques that can make it easier to give your dog medicine without him throwing a fit.

We’ve listed some of the most effective techniques below:

1. Sausages

Any type of dog-safe sausage, bratwurst, or hot dog can make a great hiding place for a small pill or capsule. Most dogs tend to just gulp down small slices of these treats, which will help prevent them from tasting the bitter pill inside.

Just be sure to check the ingredient list first and verify that the sausages don’t contain garlic, onions, or other doggo no-nos. Also, note that dogs who suffer from inflammatory bowel disease, pancreatitis, and other health conditions that are worsened by fat should avoid sausages.

2. Peanut Butter

peanut butter

Most dogs love peanut butter, and its rich taste and smell can help mask the bad taste of some liquid medications. You could even crush up a tablet and mix it in with some xylitol-free, dog-safe peanut butter, assuming your vet blesses this approach (some pills should not be broken or crushed).

Be sure to use creamy peanut butter, as dogs may try to chew crunchy varieties, which could cause them to taste the pill.

3. Cheese

cheese

A small cheese cube is one of the best ways to get your dog to wolf down a foul-tasting tablet. American, cheddar or Swiss are probably the best options, but I’ve always found Babybel cheeses (or pieces thereof) work perfectly.

Some dogs can experience digestive difficulty after eating cheese, so avoid giving them gigantic pieces, unless you are sure your pup’s tummy can tolerate it.

4. Animal Skins

chicken skin

Many dogs would sell their soul for a bit of cooked chicken or salmon skin, and these items can be very effective for hiding pills.

Just cook up the skins on a cookie sheet until they are slightly crispy, wrap them around the pill in a tight ball and give your dog the tasty treat. The fats in the skin will help disguise most of the bad-tasting medicine.

As with sausages, animal skins are not appropriate for dogs who have medical conditions that require them to eat a low-fat diet.

5. Pill Pockets

Greenie’s, Milk-Bone and several other manufacturers produce great-tasting treats that are specifically designed to hold a pill or capsule inside.

In addition to being delicious for your dog, many of these canine pill pocket products can be molded so that they completely surround the medicine, which will help prevent the gross medicine from touching your dog’s mouth very much.

6. Canned Food

Canned dog food

If your dog’s medicine comes in liquid form, you can simply mix it in with a bit of canned food. You needn’t feed your dog a whole can; in fact, you probably shouldn’t.

Just offer your dog enough canned food to adequately mask the taste of the medicine to ensure your dog gets the full dose – a couple of tablespoons will usually do.

If your dog’s medicine comes in capsule form, you may want to ask your vet about opening the capsule and pouring the contents in with your dog’s canned food. This is safe to do with some medications, but others must be kept intact.

7. Treats

treats

You can force a hard tablet into just about any soft dog treat and then give it to your dog. I like Canine Carry Outs for this purpose, but they have to be fresh to stay together once the pill is inside.

Try to use the smallest treats possible, so your dog will spend less time chewing on it before swallowing.

8. Pill Droppers

syringe

Pill poppers or “pill guns,” as they are sometimes called, are essentially long syringe-like tools that are used to deposit a pill or squirt some liquid medication into the back of your dog’s throat.

This helps prevent your dog from tasting the medicine, but it can be tricky to get the hang of these tools.

9. Capsules

capsules

If your dog only needs to take a small amount of liquid medication, you may be able to squirt it into small gel caps. This will keep your dog from tasting the medicine, and may make the entire process easier.

10. Hand Delivery

Manually giving dog medicine

If your dog won’t fall for treats or any of the other tips listed above, you may need to just take matters into your own hands – literally.

Gently open your dog’s mouth, place the pill on the very back of his tongue and close his mouth. Gently rub his throat until he sticks his tongue out, and you are done. It can also be helpful to squirt a tablespoon or so of water in your dog’s mouth before closing it to help stimulate swallowing. 

Obviously, you shouldn’t attempt this approach if you are afraid your dog may bite you.

11. Trick Them With Too Many Treats

treats help dogs take medicine

Try feeding your dog several normal treats in a row before dropping in the medicine-filled treat – now that he’s in the habit of gulping down what you’re giving him, he may not even think twice about the decoy treat.

If your dog is good at catching treats you toss to him, this technique can be even more effective! Just start firing treats at him, and mix in the medicine-filled one somewhere in the sequence. 

Also make sure to watch this video below for vet-recommended strategies to get your dog to swallow those pills!

Universal Tips For Getting Your Dog to Eat Pills

No matter which of the above hacks you decide upon, there are a few universal tips to remember when giving your dog his medicine.

The smellier and richer the treat is, the better it will mask the taste of the pill. You may even want to combine something pungent and something savory to help completely mask the medication’s taste. For example, you may combine a slice of hot dog with a little sliver of feta cheese.

Keep an eye on the extra calories you are providing. While you probably don’t have to worry about giving your Great Dane a few chicken skins a day for a 10-day course of antibiotics, your 5-pound Yorkie who will need to take pills for the rest of his life may start to pack on the pounds if you aren’t careful.

Use the three-treat method for finicky four-footers. The three-treat method involves giving your dog a treat without a pill to gain his trust, then giving him a treat with a pill and then giving him another treat without a pill. This can help Jedi-mind-trick him into thinking he really didn’t taste a pill in that second treat.

Avoid making pilltime stressful. Trying to convince your dog to take a pill can be frustrating, but you’ll need to do your best to provide plenty of positive reinforcement, praise, and petting, to keep your dog as relaxed as possible. As hard as it may be now, stressing your pup out will only make things worse.

Work with Your Veterinarian

If none of the above strategies are working, and medication time is proving to be a chore, reach out to your vet for assistance. He or she may be able to give you tips that will make the process proceed more smoothly.

At other times, it may be possible for your vet to change the prescription. For example, some medications are available in more than one form; if your dog doesn’t like taking a liquid medication, your vet may be able to contact the pharmacy (or an online pet pharmacy) and have them prepare the medication in tablet or capsule form.

Pharmacists can also occasionally flavor medications to make them less objectionable.

***

Have you ever had to go to great lengths to get your dog to take his medicine? Most of the dogs for which I’ve cared have been willing to take anything concealed in a piece of cheese, but I have had a few that required hand delivery.

Tell us about your experiences – especially if you have a tip or trick we’ve neglected to mention!

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Written by

Ben Team

Ben is the senior content editor for K9 of Mine and has spent most of his adult life working as a wildlife educator and animal-care professional. Ben’s had the chance to work with hundreds of different species, but his favorite animals have always been dogs. He currently lives in Atlanta, GA with his spoiled-rotten Rottweiler named J.B. Chances are, she’s currently giving him the eyes and begging to go to the park.

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22 Comments

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Sheila cuthbertson

I have a small dog that had a tumor bust on his face just below his eye. It has his mouth hurting so its hard to hold him and get the medicine on the side of the mouth. I need advise on how to give liquid medicine to him. Its killing me to see him in pain and I can’t afford to keep wasting this medicine. Any advise? These steps ain’t working!

Reply
Ben Team

Hey, Sheila. Sorry to hear about your pup’s tumor. 🙁
I don’t completely understand what the issue is. Are you having trouble getting him to open his mouth, or is he objecting to the entire process?
Let us know and we’ll try to help, but honestly, your vet is in a much better position to provide advice. Just give him or her a call.
Best of luck!

Reply
patricia gomez perschall

have a very hard time opening his mouth with meds. I have done so one time only she know when I put a glove on she is taking a pill. She has to have 3 times a wk for chemo meds. I have had cancer myself and I can understand the day she takes she is low keyeed etc. But my issue is getting to take this pill

Reply
Ben Team

Hey, Patricia.
Have you tried any of the “hide-the-medicine-in-something-tasty” techniques? They can prevent you from having to physically manipulate your pooch.
Best of luck!

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jean dabaldo

how do you give a dog a pill for dementia can

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Ben Team

Hey, Jean. The tips we share above should work for most kinds of medicines.
Best of luck!

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Michelle

I have tried everything and then some to get my dog to take pills. He simply will not– and I am a very experienced dog owner. What do I do when nothing on net and nothing vet suggested works?

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Ben Team

Hey, Michelle.

If nothing else works, you may want to try just grinding up the tablet and mixing it with food or something yummy (like peanut butter).
Just be sure to check with your vet first and make sure it’s safe to do so with the medicine in question.

My dog doesn’t like to take pills either, so I often use tiny little tomatoes. I get out three, and hide a pill in one of them. I then try to toss them to my pup in rapid succession, with the treat-containing tomato being the second one I give her. By tossing her something she loves really quickly, she has to just snatch them without thinking.

Best of luck!

Reply
Dan

In general, liverwurst isn’t bad for dogs, so much so that even veterinarians at times recommend its use. For instance, veterinarian Dr. … Rebecca also suggests trying liverwurst to get dogs to take their medication. She claims: “the best way I know to get a dog to take distasteful medication is to put it in liverwurst.Mar 28, 2020

Reply
Ben Team

Hey, Dan. Assuming there are no additives that dogs shouldn’t have in it (garlic, etc.), then the only issue would be the fat content. And once again, that’s not a problem for most dogs — just those who need to be on a low fat diet.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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Tracy Gutierrez

Doctor I am helpless. I have done trick possible and Beans can smell the darn meds through everything. She needs her femmes for congestive heart failure. She only weighs 7 pounds so it’s hard to hold her head. I feel so hopeless. I truly don’t know what to do.

Reply
Ben Team

Hey, Tracy.
Sorry about your struggles! Have you asked your vet about having the medications custom compounded? It may cost you a bit of money, but a compounding pharmacist may be able to prepare the medication in a different form or add flavorings.

Reply
ken

You have never dealt with a sneaky Borzoi…lol

I can manually pill him but my 16 yr old doesn’t like to do that and he needs a pill in the afternoon before I get home.

-No longer will do cheese
-hates peanut butter (always has)
-refuses ground Duck or Rabbit (from Blue Ridge Beef) IF there is a pill inside…otherwise yummy
-Same result with hamburger
-If it is in his favorite treat…duck sausages ( I even drilled it out with the ice pick instead of splitting down
the side like a hot dog bun) he chews the treat and spits the pill out

Reply
Mary Ann

I am having the same issue with my foster American Bull Dog mix. She is on high alert with every food item given to her whether it be bowl or and and I have tried everything and she will now chew everything looking for a pill to be stuck in there. I have bought the bacon flavor pill wraps, hot dogs, ground beef, etc but now that she will chew everything, none of that works. I am going to pick up liver sausage but really think they may last a day or two before she catches on to that. Unfortunately, the standard opening her mouth and putting it in is not an option with her. Am going to try the liquid medicine next but I am not banking on that working at all.

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Rick kennedy

It is not a “hack”! For the love of God, please stop calling everything a damn hack.

These are techniques, methods, tricks, and plans. Calling it a hack diminishes the idea, makes you sound like a prepubescent douche bag and tends to make a large portion of your audience roll their eyes and groan.

Stop calling everything a hack and just dispense advice.

Reply
Ben Team

That’s an incredibly bizarre thing to get worked up about, but thanks for reading.

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Angela

Great job dealing with that response, it is in deed not something to get that worked up about! Perhaps someone pooped in his Cheerios that morning..!? But thanks anyways and good day to you all!

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Jim

My wiener dog and want to thank you for your information. It was easy for two old dogs to learn and understand.

Reply
Ben Team

Glad to help, Jim! And please tell your pup, “arf, woof, woof, arf.”

He’ll know what it means.
😉

Reply
Emory Griffis

My 85 lb American Bulldog developed an unseen radar when it came to avoiding taking her hidden medications. Problem solved by hiding the pills inside a small slice of cream cheese and then folding it over the pills.

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Mike McDonald

THANKS! MY DOG-OWNING FRIEND IS AT HIS WIT’S END.

Reply
Meg Marrs

You’re welcome! We’ve all been there. 😉

Reply

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