What is the best way to give a dog a pill?

It depends very much on your dog and how willing they are to eat things they don’t want. There are a number of different options available and some will work better for some dogs than others.An image of a beagle tilting it's head to the side Try to make sure the end result is always something positive – be that more treats, a walk, some play etc. Whichever route you choose to use bear in mind a few points:

Being able to slip a pill down a dog’s neck without any apparent difficulty or loss of fingers is just down to practice! If you imagine the situation at the vets, everything is designed to maximise the vet’s chance of success:

  • The animal is unable to escape (they are shut in a consulting room).
  • If the dog is small, they are placed on the table so they are easy to reach and handle properly.
  • There is little drama in preparation, usually, the vet will be talking to you and then just pop in the tablet when everyone (dog included) is distracted.
  • If things are slightly more ‘stressed’ they will get an extra pair of hands to help.

These little, but probably unnoticed points, are a major part of the reason your vet seems so successful.

Ask if there is a palatable version of the tablet

There are now an increasing number of ‘palatable’ tablets available – more so for dogs than cats – and if your dog isn’t particularly fussy about their food, this can be the most painless and hassle free way of medicating them. N.B. The whole point of these tablets is they are ‘tasty’ so it is very important not to leave these within your pet’s reach.

Hide the pill in food

Some dogs, especially the very food motivated ones, can be tempted to eat their pills in some form of treats. There are now special, strongly flavoured, ‘doughy’ treats on the market specifically to allow you to pop the pill in the treat and then into your dog. Homemade versions should generally be a bit ‘sticky’ so that they cling to the tablet and mask the flavor well, things such as butter, cucumber or lumps of ham are commonly used tactics. It is best to start out with a few empty treats before you load them up.

Pill pushers

Widely available from the vets, these often work best for small dogs. The idea behind them is you can push the tablet to the back of the pet’s throat without losing your fingers. It does require practice and is not infallible, however once mastered, it can be effective.

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Do it like the vets do

Once mastered, this technique is very simple and effective:

  • Either restrain your pet yourself or get an ‘assistant’ to help
  • Quietly but confidently take hold of your pets upper jaw and gently tilt your pet’s nose towards the sky
  • Once looking directly at the ceiling you will probably notice that the lower jaw is slightly open. At this point there are 2 options:
  • With the fingers of the hand holding upper jaw open you can slide them just behind the canines and this will usually cause them to open their mouth, pressure on the palate will help keep it open. Then with your other hand, put the pill as far into the mouth as you can.
  • Or, you can use the free hand (with the pill in it) to place a finger into the crack between the teeth and pull the lower jaw down, then roll you hand further into the mouth and push the pill in as far as you can.
  • Quickly close the jaw and gently rub their throat.

The trick of this is that you are trying to get the tablet over the ‘hill’ at the back of the tongue, once there they will swallow the pill. If they haven’t swallowed, you can squirt a small amount of water into the corner of their mouth with a syringe to encourage them to gulp.