Many Pet Parents find it difficult to get their furry friends to take their medicine. Whether you have a chronic pill spitter, a gagger, or a runner, we get how hard this task can be. We’ve collected some of our best tips and tricks for making pill time easier! Some techniques gathered here rely on crushing or cutting pills, which could lead to decreased potency. Remember, while we offer these tips, it is always important to consult your veterinarian on all medical matters. Refer to their instructions first, and never give medication to your Pet without first discussing it with a medical professional.
1. Mix It
Some dogs may remember what that pill looks, sounds, and tastes like. No matter how much you try and pretend it’s not The Icky Pill, they know better. It’s suspicious how much you really want them to try this “treat” in your hand. Instead of giving them a single pill in your hand, mix it in at mealtime with their food. Sometimes simply placing the whole pill in with the food works, but if they somehow eat around it, next time try crushing it and sprinkling it over the top.
2. Hide It
The invention of edible pill pockets was a great thing. They now have specially designed treats, with holes perfected sized for most medication. Simply place the pill in the pocket and give your pup a treat. If you don’t feel like going that fancy, try making your own pocket with something your dog likes, like turkey, cheese, plain bread, banana, or even try sticking it in a cooked carrot.
3. Cover It
Dogs hate sour or bitter things, and unfortunately, most medication is covered in sour of bitter coatings. This could be the main reason your dog hates taking his pills. A simple and easy trick for overcoming this is to just cover the pill in something they do like. We recommend a low sodium, low sugar peanut butter (plain yogurt, raw honey, or even a little bacon grease work great too). Just lather up that pill and offer it to your pup like you would a normal treat.
The goal here is to take the stress out of the experience for you AND your dog. If the normal routine of “sit here and eat this” just isn’t working for you, try changing up the process. Does your dog normally get a treat for going potty outside? Try giving the pill as the treat next time they go out. Bringing in another Pet can also help. The presence of their friend there might signal the “Me First” instinct many dogs have when it comes to food. Maybe go for a walk, and once their mind is off the stress of pill taking, offer it to them again. You can also play a little game. Gather some low calorie, high incentive treats and toss them to your dog in a game of catch. In this order sneak in their pill: treat, treat, pill, treat, treat. They’ll never know the difference.
5. Some Extra Help
If all else fails, it might be your dog needs some extra help. Many veterinarians experience bad pill takers every day, and they’ve developed a pretty fool-proof method to make sure dogs take their medicine. If you have a wiggler, you might need an extra pair of hands for this one. Have your pet come into a safe, stress-free environment. Lubricate the pill with a small amount of butter, margarine, or olive/ coconut oil (we do this so the pill doesn’t accidentally stick to your Pet’s mouth or throat).
Using your dominant hand, grasp the pill with your thumb and forefinger. With your other hand, gently but firmly grab the top of your dog’s muzzle and tip their head back towards the ceiling. Their jaw will usually naturally open. With your pill hand, use your pinky and ring finger to gently open the mouth further (you may also need to press the tongue down in this same motion).
Then place the pill as far back on top of the tongue as possible. It’s important to try and do this with your fingers still as close to the opening of the mouth as possible to minimize gagging. Once the pill has been placed, close the dog’s mouth, and keep it closed as you lower their head to a normal position. Rub their nose or throat, or gently blow on their nose to stimulate swallowing. Give extra praise for a job well done, preferably with a treat!
Unfortunately for us, cats are a bit pickier and a bit less food motivated than dogs are. This doesn’t mean it’s impossible to get them to swallow pills, but it does mean you might have to get more creative. Hiding, mixing, and crushing techniques work well for cats, but you might have to go to physically place the pill in their mouths like in the “Extra Help” technique. There are pill pockets specially designed for felines that we’ve seen work great. If nothing seems to be working, talk to your veterinarian about pill-givers or pill-poppers (these are special tools that help administer medication to the most difficult patients).