How To Give Your Dog A Pill
- Having a good technique for giving your dog a tablet will make the process much less stressful for both you and your dog.
- If your dog doesn’t like taking tablets, check with your vet if there is an alternative such as a liquid or spot-on.
- Check with your vet before putting your dog’s tablets in food – some won’t work unless they are given whole, or on an empty stomach.
- It’s important that your dog is given all their medications as prescribed, so speak to your vet for advice if you’re having trouble.
- For advice about cats check out our article ‘How to give your cat a tablet’.
If you need to give your dog a tablet and it can’t go in their food, follow these steps to make it as easy and stress-free as possible.
Step 1 – Preparation
- If your dog is small, sit them on a non-slip surface such as a bath mat or towel and ask someone to gently (but firmly) hold them from behind. If you are on your own, hold them against your body, facing away from you.
- If your dog is large, sit them on the floor, with their bum against the wall or being held by your helper.
Step 2 – Open your dog’s mouth
- Hold the tablet between your thumb and first finger with one hand, then gently wrap your other hand around the top of your dog’s nose.
- Slowly tilt your dog’s head upwards until their nose is facing the ceiling.
- Using the hand that’s holding the tablet, gently pull your dog’s lower jaw down from the front to open their mouth.
Step 3 – Place the tablet in your dog’s mouth
- Place the tablet as far back on your dog’s tongue as possible. Be quick but also gentle and be careful not to get bitten. Avoid dropping the pill into the back of their mouth as this might cause them to gag.
Step 4 – Help your dog swallow the tablet
- Gently hold your dog’s mouth closed and stroke their throat to help them swallow. Sometimes it helps to syringe a small amount of water into the side of their mouth.
- If your dog licks their lips this is a good sign that they have swallowed the tablet.
Step 5 – Treat your dog
- Once your dog has swallowed their pill, reward them with a treat, game, or some praise. Hopefully, they’ll start to associate being given pills with something nice which can make it easier with time.
Step 6 – Wash your hands
- Don’t forget to wash your hands afterwards or wear gloves if your vet or the medication instructions tells you to.
Some dogs can be really tricky to pill so, if you’re struggling, speak to your vet practice for advice – they will be happy to give you some tips and show you some techniques.
Alternatives to giving your dog a pill
Hide it in food
It might be possible to hide your dog’s tablets in food but always check with your vet first because some don’t work properly unless they’re given as a whole (unbroken) tablet, or on an empty tummy.
- Hiding tablets in your dog’s usual food – wait until your dog is hungry then give them a small part of their meal with the tablet in, before their main meal, to make sure they get the whole dose.
- Hiding tablets in a treat – give your dog a couple of treats without the tablet, then a treat with the tablet hidden inside, and then another plain treat.
Use a liquid or spot-on medication
Some (but not all) medications are available in preparations that are easier to give than tablets, such as a liquid or spot-on. If your dog doesn’t like taking tablets check with your vet whether there is an alternative.
- What are the best foods to hide dog pills in?
- Can I crush my dog’s pills?
- Can I use a pill popper?
- Can I stop my medication if my dog is better?
- What should I do if I miss a dose?
What are the best foods to hide dog pills in?
If your dog won’t take a tablet hidden in their normal food, try using something strong-flavoured and tasty, such as a small amount of cheese or butter (these have the extra benefit of being mouldable so you can wrap them around the tablet), peanut butter (make sure it doesn’t contain xylitol), or cream cheese. Always check with your vet first before you hide your dog’s medication in food.
Can I crush my dog’s pills?
Check with your vet first as some tablets don’t work properly if they are crushed or split. If you are able to crush your dog’s medication, you can buy special pill crushers to make it easier.
Can I use a pill popper?
Special pill administrators, sometimes called “pill guns” or “pill poppers”, can be useful for very bitter-tasting medication as they reduce contact between the tablet and the tongue. Ask your vet to recommend a safe option and show you how to use it, as incorrect use can damage your dog’s mouth.
Can I stop my medication if my dog is better?
No, you need to complete the course of medication as prescribed by your vet. Some medications cause side effects if they are stopped suddenly and others, like antibiotics, need to be finished to help prevent bacteria from developing drug resistance.
What should I do if I miss a dose?
If you have missed a dose of your dog’s medication you should check the instructions inside the packet or contact your vet for advice.
Published: May 2023
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Written by vets and vet nurses. This advice is for UK pets only. Illustrations by Samantha Elmhurst.