How To Get A Dog To Take A Pill dog dressed like a nurse

How to Get a Dog To Take a Pill

Dogs get sick just like humans and need to take medication or pills. Your dog’s veterinarian might prescribe medications or pills for many reasons. It’s important you know how to get a dog to take a pill!

Why do dogs need to take pills?

One reason is your dog is being treated for a specific illness, whether it be a short term or long-term illness. Other reasons to learn how to get a dog to take a pill is for prevention purposes, reducing pain or treating an ailment.

You might have found yourself in this predicament, and now you need to know how to get a dog to take a pill.

In general, dog’s do not like to take pills. Once we understand the many reasons canines do not like taking pills, it will help us move forward with learning how to get a dog to take a pill.

One reason is they suspect an unsavory item is being presented to them. Depending on the smell of the pill, they can detect a bitter aroma coming from an opened container.  It might even be the texture of the pill is new or offensive to them.

Keep in mind, the age of the dog and personal preference plays a part in their aversion to texture. Lastly, the human’s uncharacteristic behavior when presenting the new item.

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How To Get A Dog To Take A Pill And The Importance of Smell & Pills

Canines have an amazing sense of smell! Taste and smell are two of the earliest senses for a dog. A dog is born using their smell as a way of sending messages to their brain.

Dogs are known for having an aversion to bitter or sour flavors. Your dog’s sense of taste and smell play a huge role in what your dog perceives is good to eat.

A dog’s aversion to bitter smells has enabled them to avoid toxic food items and objects.  It’s only natural they do not want to take their medication or pills. Learning how to get a dog to take a pill is definitely a challenge.  However, it can also be crucial to their well-being.

Once you bring the medication home, we have several suggestions for you to be successful in learning how to get a dog to take a pill. 

How To Get A Dog To Take A Pill red and white pills

9 Suggestions on How to Get a Dog to Take a Pill

1.Gather information about the pill. Talk to your veterinarian about the medication. You will want to glean important information before learning how to get a dog to take a pill.

  • Does the medication need to be taken with food or between meals?
  • Are their specific foods that counteract with the medication?
  • Does it need to stay in the pill form, or can it be broken in half or crushed?
  • Can the pill be frozen or refrigerated?
  • Does this medication come in a liquid form?

It’s vitally important to know if the pill can be crushed into powdered form. For example, seizure medications and many antibiotics must not be crushed or broken.

  • It is advised to not alter your pet’s medications without consulting your veterinarian first.

Once you have the answers to these important questions you can proceed with learning how to get a dog to take a pill. 

2.   The further away your dog is when you open the container, the less likely they are to associate the bitter smell with the pills. 

If possible, open it in another room. While another family member is taking the dog on a walk, is a great time to prepare their medication method.

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How To Get A Dog To Take A Pill Woman holding pill packets

3. After touching the pill, wash your hands thoroughly. The bitter or sour taste of the pill can remain on our hands, which is a huge turn off for your dog. Dogs have an acute sense of smell, so they know if we have handled anything offensive to their taste buds.

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4. Hide the pill.  Pills that are smaller in size can be hidden in treats specifically designed to hide pills and are referred to as pill pockets.

Pills can be hidden in a frozen treat (as long as the pill can be frozen).  Mix mashed banana and peanut butter with the pill, stuff into a food toy and freeze.

Try making a mini “meatball” to hide the pills.  Use canned dog food or one of the dog-friendly foods mentioned below to make a small ball with the pill hidden inside.  Make at least two additional mini meatballs.

Using the mini meatball method of hiding their pill, you will give them three homemade mini meatballs. The first mini meatball will be without a pill, the next one will have the hidden pill and the third one will be without the pill.

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5. Some dog owners find success with how to get a dog to take a pill by mixing it in with kibble or fresh food

Dogs like food that is smelly, sweet, and aromatic! The following list is dog-friendly food that has a pleasant odor to most dogs.

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6. Use a pill device. There are pill “poppers” that can make the whole process of learning how to give a dog a pill so much easier. See timestamp 1:08 to see how to give a dog a pill with one of these devices.

7. In an effort to “act normal”, stay calm when presenting a new pill.  Go through the same actions you would normally when preparing their meal or special treat. 

Our dogs watch our every move and facial expressions.  We even put off a different odor when we are anxious, excited or under stress.  Take a deep breath and be confident about giving your dog their medicine.

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8. The American Kennel Association suggests that you get help with giving a pill. With this, it will be important to not be aggressive or agitate the dog in the process thus negating the “act normal” situation with which you are trying to calm them.

Additionally, this could show your dog that you are a united front so that there is no one person that is the “mean mommy” or “mean daddy.”

9. Avoid hesitation. Try not to hesitate when presenting the food wrapped pill or coerce your dog into eating it mixed into their food. Dogs can pick up on our hesitancy and know when something is different.

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How to Get a Dog to Take a Pill: Note of Caution with Multi-Dog Homes

If another dog is present in the home, extra caution will need to be taken when learning how to get a dog to take a pill.  Separate the other dog either by putting them in their crate or a designated safe place in the home.

You don’t want your other dog stealing the “treat” away from the dog you are trying to medicate.

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Liquid Medication Option

When you have a dog that is resistant to taking pills and you are first learning how to get a dog to take a pill, you might see if the medication comes in liquid form.  The liquid medication can be given with a dropper or syringe (designed for giving medications). 

Location is key to your success with administering liquid medication.  When you and your dog are calm, gently lift the back of their cheek up, just enough to insert the dropper of medicine.

Administer it quickly in the gap between their cheek and teeth. Encourage your dog to swallow by stroking their neck or giving a quick puff of air to their nose. 

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Last Resort

There is one last resort for dogs that are finicky or are not food motivated. We all know that some dogs can be more challenging when it comes giving and taking their daily pills.

Since taking their medication is vitally important, you need to find a method that works for you and your dog.  When all else fails, you can use the open jaw method.

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Stand next to or in front of your dog. Use your non-dominate hand and gently open their mouth by placing your middle finger on the opposite side of their mouth and your thumb on the same side as you.

How To Give A Dog A Pill Standing to side of dog

Imagine making an upside “U” with your hand over the bridge of your dog’s nose as far back as where their lips split. Then place pressure by squeezing your thumb and forefinger together and opening their jaw.

How To Give A Dog A Pill Placing Your Hands Making a U with hand on top of nose

If your dog is older or has saggy skin around their mouth, be sure to pull back the skin by placing your thumb and finger lower than the skin of their mouth and pulling back before you use any pressure to open their jaw.

Next, drop the pill as far back on their tongue as possible.

How To Give A Dog A Pill holding top of jaw on each side, putting on pressure and putting and Placing Pill In Dogs Mouth

Encourage them to swallow with a quick puff of air to their nose.

How To Give A Dog A Pill Blowing at nose to get them to swallow

The Bottom Line on How to Get a Dog to Take a Pill

When you learn how to get a dog to take a pill, you will see what works and doesn’t work with your dog.

Keep in mind each medication has its own scent, taste, and texture.  When you pair that with dogs that have individual tastes and preferences, you don’t have one specific way that will work for every situation.

After you have gathered as much information as possible about the pills your dog will be taking, you can know better how to administer them.  Your veterinarian will be your first resource when it comes to learning how to get a dog to take a pill. 

Knowing what we do about a dog’s acute sense of smell, remember to open the pill container as far away from the dog as possible. After handling the pills, give your hand a thorough washing. 

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Hiding the pills in a homemade mini meatball can be a great way to give your dog their medication. Another option is mixing it in with an aromatic dog-friendly food.

When giving your dog a pill for the first time, watch your physical posture and actions. You’ll want to remain calm and prepare treats or meals like you do on a normal basis and you’ll be successful.

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