How To Give an Uncooperative Dog a Pill?

Sep 14,2021

Pet owners usually get stressed out and worried when their beloved paw friends are sick and need to be brought to a veterinary clinic. In most cases the veterinarian prescribes medication and if we are lucky enough after a few days or weeks of taking that medication our furry friends feel better again.

It is extremely important that we follow the instructions given by the veterinarian precisely and give our dog the medication in the correct doses at the prescribed time.

We need to be careful to not mix the prescribed pills with another medication or food that may decrease or eliminate their effect or lead to a dangerous toxic combination.

Once we are sure that we have understood the instructions correctly and go home, we need to start following them. In most cases here arises a problem, as our canines are not likely to be very cooperative when they need to take pills. You can consider yourself a happy dog owner, if your fluffy friend just acquiesces to swallow the pill without too much effort from your side.

We have some advice for the dog owners, who need to figure out and apply “tricks” to make their dog swallow the prescribed pills.

What Do You Need to Know Before You Start Giving Your Canine the Pills?

As the most common way to give a dog medication is to hide it in his/her food, please make sure that you consulted your veterinarian prior to giving your dog pills, hidden in food, as some medications interact with certain foods.

In addition, some medications should not be squashed into powder, and you always need to consult with your veterinarian about the form that they must be given to your dog.

If you need to give your canine pills on a daily basis for a long period of time, you need to create a positive attitude in your dog toward pills. What exactly does that mean?

Once your dog starts associating the sound of an opening pill container with a negative experience, he/she is likely to run, hide and refuse to swallow the pill. That is why we would recommend that you open the pill container in another room or place where your dog does not have access at the moment. 

Since canines have a strong sense of smells some trainers recommend that you wash your hands in order to remove any odor left on them after you touched the pills.

What Approaches Can You Apply to Make Your Dog Swallow the Prescribed Pills?

Food-Related Techniques

The easiest way to give your dog a pill is by just hiding it inside his/her regular food bowl. However, dogs are smart creatures and they are likely to eat all the granules around the pill, but not the pill itself. 

Do not frustrate too early, as we can give you some advice on what tricks you can use in such situations.

You can use soft meat like liverwurst that can be rolled in a ball. Then you just need to insert the pills in the ball. The use of canned meal is not recommended, as mixed with pills, it can create a bitter taste and your dog may refuse to eat the food.

Cheese is another soft product that can be easily rolled in a ball. We would recommend that you buy a low-sodium cheese. 

We reach to one of the favorite foods for many dogs (and people as well) - the peanut butter

If you are not familiar with this fact, peanut butter is safe to consume by dogs, as long as it does not contain xylitol. Of course, you always need to pay attention to the amount of peanut butter that your dog eats and keep it in reasonable doses.

Another option to use are chicken hearts. A chicken's heart contains vitamins A, B, and fatty acids. It can be a healthy treat due to the taurine that it contains.

Yogurt - it is tick and soft and you can tuck the pills in the yogurt. Please remember, that canines can eat yogurt, but some dogs may have problems digesting it, so we recommend that you stick to one of the other options.

There are also some treats on the market specially designed for hiding pills. Usually, they have a hole with the size of a regular pill, so that you can tuck the pill in it easily. The advantages of these treats are that their ingredients are specially adjusted to pets’ metabolism and the levels of sugar and sodium are lower compared to those in human food. However, if you decide to buy these kinds of treats, you need to check carefully if they are designed for dogs or for cats and purchase accordingly.

If your dog still refuses to swallow the pill you can contact your veterinarian and request a medication with meat flavor, if this is an option. Medications with chicken, beef, tuna, and salmon flavor will make the pills appear more attractive to your dog and he/she is not likely to refuse them.

What Problems May Occur While You Are Giving Your Canine Pills Hidden in Treats?

If you have another pet at home - especially if this pet is another dog or a cat, they may try to taste the treats and compete for them. We would recommend that you never give any medication prescribed to one pet, to another one. This is extremely important when it comes to cats and dogs. Never mix pills between species. 

On the other hand, the competition for food, may increase the desire in your dog to swallow to treat with the hidden pill as quickly as possible. 

Another problem that you may experience is your dog getting doubtful and start feeling what you intend to do. If this is the case, we have a simple solution- give your furry friend a treat, then give him/her the treat with the pill inside, and after that give him/her another regular treat. This way you can avoid any suspicion that may arouse in your dog.

Approaches Related Not Only to Food, but to Dogs’ Psychology in General

We will list some helpful approaches to make your dog swallow a pill, that are not only related to food, as a trigger, but to dogs’ psychology in general.

If you make your dog think about the pill as a reward and not as an object with an unpleasant taste, he/she is more likely to be cooperative. Again, you need to tuck the pill into the treat, but you also need to give your dog a command or make him/her perform a task, that usually lead to a reward. After that praise your canine for a good job and give him/her a treat with the pill inside. As he/she will think about the treat as a reward for the performed task, he/she is likely to swallow the pill without any resistance.

Another trick that you can use is to give your dog the prescribed medication while he/she is distracted. i.e. during a walk, playtime, or any time, when he/she is focused on something else and will eat anything you give him/her without even noticing it. As we know, our furry friends- both dogs and cats, can be really greedy. Of course, you always need to hide the pills in treats.

We bet, you have noticed the interest in your paw friend to the food you consume. Once you start eating something, no matter what, your dog is likely to come around to check what exactly you are eating. You can use this “weakness” to “lure” your dog. You just need to pretend that the pills taste heavenly and your furry friend is not likely to resist them.

Some Other Tricks That Proved Themselves Effective

As we stated above you need to contact a veterinarian about the pills that are safe to consume smashed into powder and these that can be taken only in a solid form. Crushing the pills into a powder will make them easily to swallow by your dog.

Another trick that can be applied is tucking a pill in a hollow capsule (gelatine capsules), in other words- a pill enclosed into a pill. The capsules will cover the foul taste of the medication and your canine is not likely to detect it.

We listed many food-related and psychological tricks on how to make your cooperative during a medicament treatment. Sometimes, regardless of the efforts that we make and the tricks that we apply, our fluffy friends just refuse to take the medication. 

At this point we need to move to the last approach, the most unpleasant one for our beloved friend- we need to manually administer the pill.

What Steps You Need to Follow to Make Your Canine Eat the Pill?

First, set up an area in your home where your dog will feel relaxed and comfortable. Have the pills ready in your hand or put them in a place where you can access them quickly.

You can coat the pill with butter or tuck it in a specially designed treat with a hole or a ”pocket” in the middle. 

It is recommended that you hold the pill between your thumb and your index finger (with your dominant hand).

Then you need to grip your canine’s snout (affectionate). Use your non-dominant hand to grasp it from above and put your thumb behind your dog’s teeth on one side of the upper jaw and place your fingers on the other side. You need to grasp the snout of your dog both affectionate and solid. 

The next step is to tilt his/her head backward. During this action, your canine is likely to open his/her lower jaw. You can open your canine’s mouth a bit more when using the little finger and the ring finger of your dominant hand. You need to provide pressure (very affectionate) on the front teeth and on the lower lip.

At this point, you have to put the medication in your dog’s mouth- back over his/her tongue. You need to be careful and do not put your fingers too far in his/her mouth, as this could trigger a gag reflex. 

Then you should close the mouth of your canine and keep it that way until you tilt his/her head to a standard position. Massage his/her nose or blow slightly on it. These “tricks” can make swallowing easier. 

After you finish the procedure, you should praise and reward your dog for his/her patience. Use his/her favorite treats or toys as a reward. 

We would recommend that you use approaches that do not require any force, however, sometimes we as pet owners do not have a choice and need to take action if we want our furry friend to take his/her medication and be healthy again.