Tips & Tricks to Pill Your Dog

October 13, 2020

When the vet gives you medication in pill form for your dog, does your heart sink? Are you unsure of how to do this? Here are some tips and tricks to help you get that medication into your canine companion.


CHECK WITH YOUR VET about the following:

  • Ask if it’s ok to break up the pill or crush it. Not all medications can or should be broken or crushed.

  • Ask if there’s a flavored alternative. Many meds now come in a flavored form that dogs will eat as a treat.


OPEN THE BOTTLE OR CONTAINER AWAY FROM YOUR DOG. They will come running when you rattle a bag of treats, but they’ll run away when they hear that pill bottle, right? Set out the day’s pills in the morning when your dog isn’t around if necessary. This is especially important if your dog gets daily pills. He’ll hear that sound and become suspicious of everything that follows, even the good tasting stuff.


WASH YOUR HANDS with soap and warm water. Remember, a dog’s sense of smell is roughly ten thousand times stronger than yours! You may not be able to smell it, but he might. If you have “pill scent” clinging to your hands and your dog smells it, the game’s up. He’ll be suspicious of whatever you try to give him.


PILL-IN-A-PILL. Some pills, such as metronidazole and tramadol, taste terrible and dogs hate them. Others have a chalky, yucky texture. You can purchase clear hollow gelatin capsules from a pharmacy, place the offensive-tasting pill inside the clear one, and put it in a pill pocket or food. These are also helpful if you have to give more than one pill at a time. Don’t forget the wash-your-hands step so s/he doesn’t figure out your trick!


MAKE IT A GAME. Prepare one treat with a pill in it, and several others without. Make them small enough to swallow in one gulp. Make sure your dog does not see you preparing the pill treat.

  • Beginning with a plain treat, offer the treat. Offer a second plain one. Offer the pill treat. Offer another plain one. You can toss these if your dog catches, or hand-feed if he prefers.

  • You can practice obedience and use them as rewards for completing commands.

  • If you use treats to keep your dog focused during walks, you could use your pill-treat then.


PRETEND TO EAT IT. Many dogs want table food. Hide the pill in cheese or something else you’re eating. Go ahead and eat a couple (non-pill!) bites while your dog watches, and then give him his piece. Or drop on on the floor “accidentally” and watch him scarf it up!


HIDE PILLS IN A TREAT. Here are some of the best treats we’ve found to get dogs to take their pills.

  • GREENIES PILL POCKETS. You can purchase these from us. They are made for tablets or capsules and come in a variety of smelly, delicious-to-dogs flavors. They’re soft so you can mold them around the pill to hide it. Many dogs will eat these.

  • PEANUT BUTTER. Many dogs love PB. Warning: make sure you NEVER use one artificially sweetened with xylitol, which is toxic.

  • PLAIN YOGURT. The thicker the better to hide the pill.

  • MEAT BABY FOOD. Dogs usually love meat baby foods and will often lick a dollop, including a pill, right off a spoon.

  • MARSHMALLOWS. Cut them open, insert the pill, smash them to seat them again. Works like a charm.

  • HOT DOG PIECES. Hot dog pieces are a high-value training treat. Dogs love them. To use for pilling, make sure your piece is a little longer than your pill. Use a knife tip or chopstick to make an indentation and push in the pill until it’s hidden.

  • CHEESE. Many dogs love cheese. Softer cheese can easily mold around a pill.

  • CHICKEN HEARTS. If you feed a raw diet, you can easily use the holes in the chicken heart to insert the pill. For big dogs/big pills, you might have better luck with turkey hearts.

  • LIVER PATE or LIVERWURST. Disgusting stuff, but dogs generally love it. Both the pate and liverwurst can be molded around your pill.

  • SARDINES. For the worst picky eaters, you might try super-stinky, super-smelly sardines to hide the pill scent. Just try not to gag. :)


USE OTHER DOGS. Feed non-pill treats to all the dogs except the one who needs meds! When you finally offer him a piece, he’ll probably snap it up (and take his pill too).


CRUSH IT UP. Remember you MUST get your vet’s okay first. Use a rolling pin, a mortar, and pestle or buy a pill crusher and make a fine powder. You can fill an empty pill capsule, or add it to paste-like peanut butter. You could try smearing it on the tops of his paws - he’ll feel the need to lick it off. * if pills are really bad-tasting, hollow capsules hidden in treats are the best way to go with really foul-tasting meds.


MY DOG REFUSES TO EAT. Uh-oh. Tried everything and your picky eater still will not touch anything with a pill in it? Time for the tried-and-true method used by veterinarians everywhere: send it down his throat using a safe technique that will not harm him. Call us and arrange for a training session/demonstration, or you may wish to watch the following video on Youtube that demonstrates the technique.




cause food aversion. Your dog should be able to trust that when you put down his or her food, you’re not trying to sneak a nasty-tasting medication in there.

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