How to give your pet a tablet
Even the best-kept pets will need to take a pill from time to time. But getting our pets to take their medicine can be a real challenge!
Whether their pill is for a worming treatment, or to make them feel better when they're poorly, it's really important that your pet takes their tablets exactly as prescribed by your vet.
Make sure you follow the instructions on the label and always complete the full course. If you don't finish a course of antibiotics, the bacteria they're fighting have a chance to develop resistance. This can make the drug unusable for your pet – and others – in the future. Find out more about antibiotics, and PDSA’s pledge to be an Antibiotic Guardian here.
Missing any doses of medication for a long term condition like a heart problem or epilepsy might mean the disease won’t be controlled properly and your pet could become ill.
Giving tablets is often easier said than done, so here are some top tips for helping the medicine go down:
- Is there a liquid version available? If you struggle to get your pet to swallow a tablet, ask your vet if there’s a liquid version of the medicine available. This might be easier for everyone.
- Can they be given with food? If tablets are the best option, consider crushing them up into your pets food. Check with your vet that it is safe to do this as some tablets don’t work as well if they’re crushed and some must be given on an empty tummy. It’s best to give a small portion first with the tablet in while your pet is hungry, to make sure that they eat the whole dose. You can then follow this up with their main meal.
- Try a treat. If your pet’s tablets can be taken with food, you could also try hiding it in your pet’s favourite treat. Make sure they eat it all to get the full dose.
What to do if these tips don’t work
Some pets are able to sniff out the medicine in their food and refuse to eat it. Others will wolf down a treat and spit out the tablet while you’re not looking. Our pets have all sorts of pesky tricks to avoid taking their medicine!
If your pet isn’t playing by the rules, you might need someone else to help give them their tablets:
- Get a small syringe of water ready and take the tablet out of its packaging.
- Place small pets, cats and smaller dogs on a non-slip surface with someone standing behind and holding them gently but firmly to their body. It can be helpful to wrap cats in a towel so they can’t use their front paws. Sit larger dogs on the floor, with their bum against a wall, and get the holder to keep their body and head steady from one side.
- The pill-giver should gently take hold of the pet’s upper jaw with one hand, and tilt it upwards so their nose is facing the ceiling. The pet’s mouth should naturally open a little. Gently pull the pet’s lower jaw down to fully open their mouth.
- The pill-giver should place the tablet as far back on the tongue as possible, confidently and gently. Avoid dropping the pill into the mouth as this can cause gagging. Close their mouth, and gently hold their muzzle so they don’t spit out the pill, and stroke the pet’s throat in a gentle downward motion. This will encourage them to swallow and prevent them from spitting it back out.
- If necessary, the pill-giver can syringe a small amount of water into the side of your pet’s mouth to help them swallow. This is important for cats as it also stops the tablet getting stuck in their throat.
- If your pet licks their lips, this is usually a sign they’ve swallowed the tablet.
- When you’ve finished, reward your pet with lots of praise or a healthy treat. They’ll start to associate the process with getting something nice at the end which can make it easier with time.
- Don’t forget to wash your hands afterwards. It’s a good idea to wear disposable gloves if the medication contains anything like steroid or hormones.
- Watch our videos below for advice on how to give your dog or cat a tablet.
Still having trouble?
If our tips haven’t helped, it’s best to speak to your vet.
Your vet or vet nurse will be happy to show you how to give a tablet to your pet and can talk you through other ways of making the process easier and less stressful for you and your pet.
How to give your dog a tablet