I’ve been lucky enough to love many dogs in my lifetime, many of which had to take oral medication at one point or another.
Getting my dogs to swallow a pill has ranged from a difficulty level of zero where I could get my dog to eat a pill right out of my hand to a difficulty level of a million where she would literally vomit up every pill no matter what method I attempted to use to get it to go down.
Some dog medications can be expensive so the concept of wasting medicine is obnoxious to me.
Dogs take pills for flea control, heartworm prevention, and various other issues that are not life threatening. If it is really an issue to get your dog to take a pill, you can generally use alternative methods to achieve the same desired result as with the pill (ask your vet first).
But some medications are necessary to keep pets with certain medical conditions or illnesses alive. So keep reading to learn how to give a dog a pill!
Related: The 3 Best Ways to Give a Dog Liquid Medicine
17 Ways to Get Your Dog to Take a Pill
I remember one particularly awful night of struggling to pill my sick dog that resulted in me collapsing in the floor in a fit, full on ugly crying, screaming, “I love you! Why won’t you just let me save your life!?!”
I’ve learned a few tricks over the years from my own experiences with stubborn pups as well as suggestions from veterinarians and fellow pet owner friends of mine along the way that I’ll happily share with you here.
I truly hope these tips for how to get a dog to take a pill spare you all some of the stress headaches I’ve experienced with it over the years.
Method #1: Wrap it in Meat
Wrap your dog’s pill up in a slice of meat to hide it. Most dogs love meats. While any suitable meat would do, I find some to be easier than others to use for this particular application.
My favorite meats to hide dog medication in are:
- hot dogs
I’ve had more than one dog that would chew up the meat and spit the pill back out at me. They would all give me the same look when they did it, too.
Method #2: Greenies Pill Pockets
Greenies Pill Pockets are dog treats that have a built-in pocket to slip a pill into. It’s healthy and every one of my dogs that have tasted them have seemed to really enjoy them.
Same as with the meat. Sometimes the dog will discover the pill and reject it.
I will say that I’ve had better luck with these pill pocket type treats than with other methods on a few of my more uncooperative dogs.
I find it helps to give them the treat without a pill first to get them excited about scarfing them down.
Method #3: Freeze Your Pup’s Pill in an Ice Cube
I have had so much fun over the years with my dogs that have loved to eat ice cubes. It also made it quite easy to administer a pill to my dog frozen in ice.
Make sure you keep your roofied ice trays clearly marked as to avoid any confusion.
I had a dog that would get terrible anxiety over fireworks. Her vet prescribed her some medication for the problem.
With New Year’s Eve coming up, I popped a couple of the pills into the ice trays and let them freeze overnight in preparation for the fireworks. People who live nearby also pop them on New Year’s Day, so I wanted to have those ready as well.
I gave my dog one that morning and planned to give her the second later that afternoon.
Before that happened, my husband somehow ended up putting the rest of them into his drink. I realized what he had done when I went to administer her second dose and couldn’t find her special cubes in the freezer.
Thankfully I we figured it out before the ice melted and the pills dissolved, otherwise he would’ve had a happy new year indeed.
Method #4: Hide Your Pup’s Medication in a Dried Apricot
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Dried apricots are a great size and consistency for inserting and hiding a pill from a dog. You can use a knife to poke a small slit in the apricot and simply insert the pill inside.
This method is not ideal if you have to give your dog multiple pills a day. The excess fiber from an overabundance of dried apricots can cause runny stool.
Also, while dried apricots are safe for dogs to eat, apricot pits are not. Make sure the apricot you are using was pitted properly before administering medication to your pet.
Method #5: Hiding Meds in Dog Food
If your dog is the type that gobbles down his food like a little piggy, you may be able to just slip the pill into his food bowl. He may ingest it without even noticing.
If it’s a pill that can be crushed, you can grind it to a powder with a mortar and pestle and sprinkle it on top of the kibble.
Some dogs will eat every bite of kibble and leave the pill in the bowl.
There are a few pet meds out there that taste terrible. Sprinkling something really gross over my food would make me turn my nose up at my dinner, too.
Method #6: Use Empty Gel Caps
There are some medications that taste particular noxious. If you purchase empty gel caps, you can enclose the tablet or crush your dog’s pill and enclose the bits in a gel cap before you feed the offensive pill to your dog.
This makes it easier to administer medication to a dog without him tasting the yucky medicine and rejecting it.
Some medications (both pet and human) can’t be broken or crushed before being administered. Ask your veterinarian or pharmacist about crushing your pet’s medication.
Method #7: Under the Cream Cheese
This one is self explanatory. It really comes down to knowing your pet’s favorite foods. It can be difficult to know because many dog owners don’t feed their pets “people food.”
The thing about that is quality dog food is comprised of meat and things like carrots and peas. That IS people food. They can eat that.
The people food that they really shouldn’t be eating is the people food that people really shouldn’t be eating either.
You can also use this method with cottage cheese, though it is a bit messier.
Some medications can’t be taken along with dairy. Also, like humans, some pets have dairy allergies meaning this option is not on the table for them.
Method #8: Use Crunchy Peanut Butter
So many people I know use the trick of hiding a pill in peanut butter to fool their pooch into taking its medication.
While this works for some, other pups will simply root around and leave the pill behind. Some dogs have an ability to do this that is so uncanny it will make you wonder if they were a police dog in a past life.
But if you crush the pill and use the crunchy variety of peanut butter, it’s harder for your pup to distinguish the little pieces of the pill from the little pieces of the peanuts in the peanut butter.
Same problem as other methods involving crushing pills. Some medications (both pet and human) can’t be broken or crushed before being administered.
Method #9: Mozzarella Sticks
String cheese is a great size and shape for hiding pills inside.
I’ve used a chunk of cheddar to insert a pill into before. I’ve also heard of people using Velveeta and Cheez Whiz (just make a bunch of cheese balls at once and store them in the fridge until you need them). Desperate times call for desperate measures.
Like with cream cheese, you pose the risk of a dairy interaction with certain medications.
Method #10: Hide Your Dog’s Pills in Coconut Oil
I have found this trick can be particularly helpful with larger pills because in addition to camouflaging the pill, a spoonful of coconut oil also lubricates your dog’s mouth and throat.
This helps the medicine slide right on down before your dog spits out the pill.
This method is also useful to get past your dog’s gag reflex.
If you have to give your pet multiple pills a day, ingesting too much oil could cause…well, let’s just say what goes in must come out.
Method #11: Better with Butter
Channel his inner Paula Deane and slather the pill in some butter.
I had a friend whose dog absolutely loved butter. I have no idea how his dog owner made that discovery, but it works pretty much the same as coconut oil method in that it hides the pill but also acts as a lubricant to help get it down.
Same problem with several of the other methods on this list, too much causes a potential for doggy diarrhea.
Method #12: Pill Gun
They actually make a product called a pill gun that looks similar to a syringe. The dog pill syringe has a rubber tip so it is gentle on the dog’s mouth.
I’ve had a dog that would get into wrestling matches with me when I tried to use one of these on him. It scared him for some reason before I ever even attempted to get it near him.
Method #13: Get Out the Gravy Boat
My pups would eat a dog turd if you poured gravy on it. I won’t name names, but one of them doesn’t even need the gravy.
When one of my dogs would eat the kibble but leave the pill, I simply poured a little homemade gravy over the top. It helps glue all the bits of kibble together and coats the pill to keep it hidden.
This probably isn’t ideal for an overweight pet.
Method #14: Canned Dog Food
If your dog is used to crunchy kibble, try offering up their medicine hidden in a bowl of chunky canned wet dog food. The chunkier, the better to help mask the hidden tablet.
Just like with crunchy kibble, some dogs will eat every speck of the wet food in the bowl and somehow leave the only the pill behind.
Related: Should You Give Your Dog Wet Food or Dry Food?
Method #15: Raspberries
If your dog loves raspberries, you can insert a pill right into the middle of the berry. They have a built-in pocket that works perfectly for this purpose.
Some dogs will separate the berry from the pill and spit out the capsule.
Method #16: Toss it in Their Mouth
It’s pretty fun for both you and your pet to toss your dog treats and have them catch them in the air.
You can insert a pill wrapped in pill-masker paste and make it into a game. They are usually so distracted with the game that they don’t even realize the pill was in the treat.
This doesn’t work very well if your dog can’t catch. Or with liquid medication…
Method #17: Bananas
Another great fruit to hide pills in is a banana. Their consistency and shape make them perfect to slip a pill in.
Some dogs will separate the fruit from the pill and spit it out.
Tips for Administering Pills to Your Pet
Here are a few tips I’ve picked up over the years for giving my dogs pills:
Wash Your Hands
Wash your hands after placing the medication. A dog’s nose is very sensitive and they can tell if there is a chemical-y scent in the air.
Once the pill is hidden, the smell should be masked but it will still be on your hands so wash them paws!
Dogs are more astute than we give them credit for.
If they watch you open the pill bottle, take out a capsule, insert it in a delicious treat, and then give it to them, your dog will know something is up and either refuse to eat it or do their best to eat around the pill.
So make sure you don’t have an audience when you’re hiding their pills.
Similar to the last tip, dogs can sense when something is off. So whether you’re slipping their medication in their canned food or hiding it in a pill treat, try not to act any differently.
If you’re using a pill pocket, cheese/meat ball, raspberry, etc, be sure to give it to your pet like you would any other treat. Make them do a command so they feel like they earned their treat.
If you’re giving your dog a pill in his food, go through your normal mealtime routine.
Hopefully at least ONE of these 17 methods will work for you.
Giving your dog medicine may be essential for their health but that doesn’t mean they will make it any easier. So keep at it and let me know in the comments which methods worked for you!
* Please consult your vet before giving your dog any new medications
What are the Best Foods to Hide Pills In?
Meats and (crunchy) peanut butter are no-brainers but you can also use cheese, bananas, raspberries, apricots, or baby food