Getting a dog to swallow their pills.

6 Ways to Get Your Dog to Swallow Pills

Many pet parents wonder how they’ll get their pup to swallow medication. If you’re like us, your last experience “pilling” your dog probably wasn’t a walk in the park, and you want to make things easier this time around.

So, how do you get your dog to swallow pills?

If you’re a seasoned pet parent, you’re probably familiar with the concept of hiding a pill in your pet’s food and watching to make sure it gets consumed. Unfortunately, that technique doesn’t always work.

Here are a 6 surefire tricks you can employ to make the process of “pilling” your dog easier.

Tips and Tricks to Help Get Your Dog to Swallow Their Pills

From adding a water chaser to turning pill time into game time, here are six creative ways to outsmart your pup when it comes to pills.

Use Water

Veterinary technician Natasha Nanji says, “Keep a syringe full of water handy. Just like humans, your pet will find it easier to swallow their pills with a swig of water to help wash them down. I always follow up every pilling by pushing a few millimeters of water into their mouth. They’ll swallow it purely out of reflex and will take that pill down with it.”

Nanji does recommend pushing the pill back as far as possible into your dog’s mouth before squirting the water.

If this seems like a bad idea to you, she also recommends “pill guns,” which you can get from your veterinarian. A “pill gun” allows you to load a pill into one end of a syringe and and use the top to push the pill into the back of your pet’s throat. If you’re quick, you can do this without exposing your fingers to an accidental bite.

Improve the Taste

Your dog doesn’t want to take foul-tasting pills any more than you do. If you get your pup’s medication from a pharmacy specializing in animal medication, they may offer to flavor the pill for you. Sometimes, you can get chicken, beef, bacon, or another tasty flavor added to your pet’s medication. It’s definitely an option worth discussing with your veterinarian.

If flavoring the pills isn’t an option, you can ask if they offer the medicine in a liquid form. It’s much easier to push liquid down your pet’s throat than pills.

What About a Food Disguise?

One of the most popular ways people encourage their pets to take pills is by disguising them. Try hiding medication in your dog’s bowl along with tasty food, or offer it as a treat embedded in cheese or peanut butter. Tricks like this do work, but some dogs can be pretty crafty. For example, savvy dogs will lick all the peanut butter off and leave the pill. What then?

Make it a Game!

Joan Hunter Mayer is a certified professional dog trainer and owner of The Inquisitive Canine, based in Santa Barbara, California. She says, “I have a couple of tips for dog parents to use when giving pills to their canine companion.”

  1. Choose an enticing food you can wrap the pill in. “Maybe a food that is novel – something the dog only gets on special occasions. For example, cheese products, ground and softer meats such as meatballs and meatloaf, cooked chicken, salmon, pork, sticky rice, mashed potatoes, and other roasted root vegetables can work too. Once you have your dog’s interest, you can make it a game.”
  2. “Take the wrapped pill, along with a few pieces of the food you’ve chosen to wrap the medication in. Then, use them as treats to reinforce simple behaviors that your pet already knows, such as Sit or Down.” Then, offer your pup small bits of the tasty tidbits as rewards for completing their tasks.

Hunter Mayer says, “Repeating the training exercises quickly can get the animal excited, allowing them to focus more on the game versus any medication. Midway through the training drills, reinforce them with the piece or pieces that include the med, following it up with a plain piece or two.” Bingo. Pill time becomes training time.

Blow On Their Nose

Lolahemp Vet Tech Crystal Litzenberger recommends that you, “Blow on their nose or even rub it to encourage them to swallow. They are also likely to try and lick their nose, so they swallow the pill to enable them to do that. I would suggest holding their mouth closed but very gently so that they can spit the pill out if they need to.”

Use a “Pill Pocket”

Pill pockets are flavored treats that make it easy to disguise your pup’s medicine. You can order them online or find them in pet stores.

There you have it: 6 ways to get your dog to swallow their pills. We know it can be tricky to get your pets to take their medication, but hopefully one of these methods will work. If not, it’s worth asking your veterinarian about other options.