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Easy Ways to Give Medication to Your Dog

While some good doggos have no problem taking their medications with dinner, most tend to need a little extra encouragement. We’ve all tried a variety of sneaky tricks in the past to get our dog to take medication, often with no luck. 

You are not alone in this predicament. We hear you, which is why we have gathered some helpful tips to make the process easier and more pleasant for everyone involved.

The element of disguise 

Hiding medication in food is a common method to give medication to dogs. There are several ways you can do this.However, it’s important to do this with caution. I strongly recommend giving medication separately and not mixed with regular meals. Since some meds can taste bitter, this can cause your dog to spit out the pill or eat around it. This may create an even worse issue called “food avoidance behaviour” where your dog stops eating the food all together. 

Before you mix any human food with medication, make sure to clear it with your veterinarian. Some drugs do not mix well with certain foods. For example, mixing tetracycline antibiotic pills with dairy causes the calcium in the dairy to bind up some of the medication, which means your dog won’t get the full benefit of their medication.  

Keeping that in mind, here are some tricks for disguising medication with food. 

Pill pockets - there are a number of commercially available treats called pill pockets that include a hole perfect for hiding medication. 

Peanut butter - some pet owners mix their dog’s medication with peanut butter on a lick mat. You can purchase a lick mat here! Or you can simply roll peanut butter into a small ball, insert the pill, and offer it as a treat.Make sure the peanut butter isn't made with xylitol, an artificial sweetener, which is toxic to dogs. 

Give it when they’re distracted! 

Try giving your dog their medication just before their daily walk. Because they’re excited and distracted, this is an opportune time to give your dog a pill. Make sure to bring some snacks too so you can reward them after! 

How to give your dog a pill without food 

Manual - this is when you open your dog’s mouth and manually put the medication on the back of the tongue, then close the mouth, and wait until your dog swallows. The easiest and most natural way to get this down is to hold the dog’s head and tilt it back.This backwards tilting of the head naturally helps the lower jaw to open, making a clear runway to get the pill into the back of the oral cavity. In most cases, if the dog sticks their tongue out, they’ve likely swallowed the pill.
Use a pill launcher - this is helpful for dogs that tend to bite. A pill launcher or pill gun is a gadget that holds the pill, and when you put it into the dog’s mouth the plunger is pushed, which launches the pill into the back of the dog's mouth. 

Key rules for giving your dog medication 

  1. Always finish the prescription - Unless your vet or the label states otherwise, give the medication until it’s gone. Stopping an antibiotic early can contribute to the growth of drug-resistant bacteria 
  2. Don’t give up - if you continue to have difficulty giving medication to your dog, contact for veterinarian for further assistance 
  3. Always follow the label directions - if you have any questions about the medication, ask your veterinarian
  4. Never share medication with other pets - never use one pet’s medication for another pet unless you are instructed to do so. Never give your dog’s medication to your cat or other pets, because drugs that are safe for dogs are not always safe for other animals. 
  5. Stay calm - an important thing to remember when giving your pet medication is to always remain calm and keep your voice kind. This can be a stressful situation for your dog so you should be patient and not get frustrated if they aren’t cooperating. Dogs can sense fear and stress, so if you’re anxious about giving your dog a pill, he’s going to feel anxious too. Try and make the experience as rewarding as possible. Give them warnings by saying things like “time for your pill” in a calm and cheerful tone and give your dog a treat when you’re done.