How to Pill a Pet If Your Pet is Being a Pill

Humor in the title aside, it can be very frustrating to get your dog to take its medicine, and if your pooch is on daily medication, it can be a tough pill to swallow—for both of you! Some pills just have a bitter flavor, and while some dogs may live in ignorant bliss if you hide the pill in canned food, it’s a common sight to see the pill remain in the dish long after the last morsel is gone. So what can you do to help the medicine go down?

  • Try wrapping the pill in piece of cheese or tidbit of meat. This works with a lot of dogs, but it’s still possible to watch your dog devour the treat and then see the pill simply drop to the floor. (Usually followed by an “I’m on to you” look.)
  • Try the “One-Two-Three” approach. When using human food to disguise a pill, first give your dog a treat without the pill, then give them the treat with the pill, and follow up with another treat without the pill.
  • Try “Pill Pockets”. These are dog treats that have a hollowed out center made for hiding a pill.
  • You may have to physically pill your dog—this works best on non-aggressive dogs: Gently open their mouth, place the pill as far back onto their tongue as possible, close their mouth, and gently hold their mouth closed while you rub the bottom of their chin.
  • We’ve saved the best for last, and if you’ve ever given your dog peanut butter you’ll know why it’s so effective. Put some (Xylitol-free) peanut butter on the tip on your finger, place the pill on top, if needed, gently open your dog’s mouth, then scrape the peanut butter and pill onto the roof of their mouth. Your dog will be so busy working the peanut butter off the roof of their mouth that the pill will automatically be swallowed.

A couple of things to keep in mind: Some dogs have allergies or sensitivities to dairy or other ingredients, so bear that in mind when choosing treats. Also, some medicines, such as metronidazole, are extremely bitter and cause excess salivation. So, unless you like peanut butter flavored drool all over your house, it may be better to skip that peanut butter hack!