Some dogs are absolute stars when it comes to taking their medication. They’re easy going, don’t mind you trying to disguise a pill in a lump of cheese, or put drops of some foreign substance on their food. Maybe your dog is so chill he’ll eat a tablet right out of the palm of your hand!!
This article is for all of you who, like me, DON’T have that kind of dog!!
Hidden in a small piece of a grilled cheese sandwich, stuffed into a hot dog or mixed in with ice cream, are just some of the many helpful tips you’ll find right here from parents of very clever dogs!
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I’m sure many of you can relate to the stress and anxiety that comes with not being able to give your pup medication. Add to that sharing your life with an older dog with health issues, and it can be challenging. My dog Jack has quite a few health issues that require several pills twice a day, so when he’s in the mood to eat chicken or cheese it’s a breeze, but when he’s being a fussy eater…
Talk to Your Vet
Ask your vet if it’s possible to crush the pills or open the capsule. In many cases you can, but sometimes they need to be taken in original form. If you are able to, sprinkle it on his food or mix in a little water, suction it up with a syringe then squirt directly into your dog’s mouth. If you can’t, find out if the medication is available in a liquid that can be squirted on his food or or into his mouth. Maybe there’s an injection your vet can then teach you how to administer?
NOTE: Although this article is written with senior dogs in mind, obviously the tips can help, no matter the age of your dog.
A Few Things to Keep in Mind
♦ The “one” thing you finally find that works may not work forever, so having a list of alternatives is a lifesaver.
♦ I know how frustrating it is, believe me I do. I’ve been there and I’m there now, but try not to show it to your dog by yelling or getting annoyed. It’s not their fault and you’re doing great!
♦ The tips mentioned below have all been tried and tested by dog parents, myself included. Of course, what works for one won’t necessarily work for another, so it’s a case of trial and error. There are so many ideas you’re bound to find at least a few that work.
♦ Speak to your vet if you’re not sure whether some of the food recommendations would be safe for your dog. For example, some may be too high fat for a dog with pancreatitis.
How to Give Your Dog a Pill
The tips below are from senior dog parents who are members of my FB group.
♦ At the moment, hotdogs are working for Jack, as is sliced ham and sliced roast chicken from the deli counter…we’ll see how long this lasts!!
♦ Turkey meatballs.
♦ Not feeding your dog for a while before giving medication. If he’s hungry, he’s more likely to gobble up what you give him.
♦ Make a little ball of liverwurst with the pill in the center.
♦ Put a can of dog food in the fridge to harden to a consistency you can scoop and roll into balls. Scoop out 4 tablespoons (or smaller depending on the size of your dog) of the food, roll into little meatballs and put the pill into one of them. Start by giving your dog a meatball without the pill, then quickly give him a second one without the pill. Make it seem like fun and praise him like crazy. As soon as he swallows the second give him the third one with the pill in it, then the fourth. You can also make “real” meatballs, just be sure your dog doesn’t have any restrictions on the ground beef.
♦ Depending on the pill, crush into yogurt.
♦ We took a cue from our vet who administered the first pill he needed the other day. She buttered up the pill so it was slippery, then opened his mouth very wide and stuck it far back in his throat and closed his mouth. The combination of being so far back and slippery, he couldn’t do anything but swallow it. We have since used the technique successfully.
♦ I hide them in a little ‘meatball’ of canned cat food and let him nibble at it. Yesterday he didn’t fall for that trick, so I tossed all his AM meds into the blender, mixed them into his breakfast, and he ate it that way.
♦ Dairylea cheese triangles. Just hoping no one ever tells him they’re not meant to have a crunchy middle!
♦ Hide the pill(s) in chicken or beef baby food.
♦ I had a very clever and suspicious dog who seemed to know when there was a pill hidden in something, even when he didn’t see it happen. No matter what I tried he would refuse everything, until I discovered Pill Pockets and they worked like a charm every single time.
♦ Nothing seemed to work for us. He would just eat the treat and spit out the pill. Then we started cutting up little pieces of bread, slathering them with mayo and wrapping the pill in there. I have no idea why that works. Sometimes watermelon works, too.
♦ We dissolve 4 pills with 3-4 drops of water then put a tablespoon of vanilla ice cream, let it melt. Then load a syringe with all this and carefully squeeze it into his mouth.
♦ When my dog wouldn’t eat, I went to Petsmart and picked any food and treat. Well, it is the Bil-Jac little soft treats that saved my life. I cut them in half and she eats all her meds with them.
♦ Hide it/them in peanut butter or almond butter. Make sure there is no Xylitol as it can be deadly to dogs. Also, my vet discouraged me from giving peanut butter to one of my dogs with heart issues, and the fat content would make it unsuitable for dogs with pancreatitis.
♦ What is currently working in our house is to take chicken or duck hearts, cut the top edge off of them, stuff the pill down the center hollowed area and push it down in there. We also lead with the ‘blank’ top piece, and he usually swallows the heart whole. Then we follow with another snippet of heart so he has the anticipation of something more to come.
♦ I have been known to resort to whipped cream to hide pills, though obviously not on a regular basis!
♦ Right now, the magic is frozen yogurt.
♦ Tomlyn Pill Masker – this is a paste you wrap around any size pill. It’s suitable for cats as well.
♦ I freeze my girl’s pills in a little bit of ice cream and then pop them out as needed, give them to her and they go right down.
♦ A piece of banana makes a good pill pocket.
♦ Wrap in bacon, low sodium deli ham or other deli meat.
♦ Crush and place in a syringe with water or broth, then squirt into his mouth.
♦ I do peanut butter now, but used to put the pills in an ice cube tray, cover with melted coconut oil, then put it in fridge till firm. I stored them in the fridge during the summer so they wouldn’t melt. I stopped using the oil after a pancreatitis scare, I had to decrease the fat in her diet.
♦ In a small piece of frankfurter.
♦ Fold up in pieces of American cheese…. works every time.
♦ Warmed meat baby Gerber food.
♦ Bread crust rolled around a pill.
♦ Whatever meat we had for supper.
♦ Hidden in Vienna sausage seems to do the trick. In the past I used marshmallows, but she caught on to that one after a while.
♦ Cream cheese.
♦ Kong squirty bacon and cheese flavour.
♦ I just open her mouth and push them in towards the back of her throat and massage her throat to help her swallow and then give her a treat.
♦ A spoonful of cat food with pill tucked inside. Works every time for our 2 old timers. 🙂
♦ I crush pills with a spoon, then use a hand blender to make a really nice chicken shake, put it all in the shake, blend it some more, and they will eat it xx
♦ Dave’s canned chicken & rice works for us.
♦ I’ve used canned beef-a Roni!!!! Sour cream and ice cream always worked too! Grab something out of the pantry to make it look like a treat! They are so damn smart! When you’re excited they’re excited too!!!
♦ Take something off your plate, and wrap it around the pill. My dog will eat anything if it comes off my plate!
♦ I put their pills in pork liver sausage.
♦ Try a “Pet Piller.” It looks like a long, plastic tube with a plunger on one end and a rubber cylinder on the other, and is designed to hold different sizes of pills. Once you place the medicine in the holding end of the piller and draw back the plunger, open your dog’s mouth just wide enough to get the pill all the way over her tongue to the back of her throat. When the pill is in the right spot, push down on the plunger, quickly pull out the piller — making sure you’ve left the medication behind — and gently hold her muzzle shut. Point her nose to the ceiling and rub her throat to encourage her to swallow the pill.
♦ Grilled cheese sandwich.
How to Give Your Dog Liquid Medication
♦ The easiest way is by using the dropper to put it onto a favorite treat or his food. I find one or two drops at a time in the center of a hot dog works well for Jack. Start with just one drop, because if you give the whole dose you may find he won’t like the taste, and you will have wasted it. If he catches on to what you’re doing and refuses to eat the bits with medication on it, your next best option is to use the dropper and squeeze the liquid directly into your dog’s mouth. Fill the dropper with the recommended amount, lift one side of his upper lip, put the dropper into the space and squeeze until empty. Be sure to quickly follow up with a treat he loves!
♦ Add to bone broth or low sodium ready-made stock. Click here for a video on how to make bone broth.
♦ Perhaps your dog prefers his medication cold, a few minutes in the fridge should do the trick. Be sure to check with your vet to make sure it’s okay to refrigerate.
♦ If your dog is fighting you every step of the way, it’s time to create some positive associations. That means teaching him great things happen when he sees the syringe. Start by showing him the syringe – hold it out for him to sniff or put it on the floor. Give him a treat when he’s sniffing around it and seems calm. Once he’s comfortable seeing it, or more importantly ignores it when you take it out, why not put some peanut butter or squirty cheese on the tip of it and let him lick it off. Practice in short sessions several times a day until he’s fine with it, then you can try his medication.
How to Give Your Dog Eye Medication
The first few times you have to do it can seem a bit scary, especially if your dog is not too fond of you coming at his eyes with a bottle in your hand! It’s perfectly normal to be concerned, okay even freaked out, but you will get the hang of it.
Naturally I suggest you have your vet demonstrate how it’s done. Ask as many questions as you need to understand the best technique when it comes to holding him, and administering the drops or ointment. Practice while you’re there so you feel comfortable doing it. Over time you may find a different technique that works better for you and your dog.
My dog Jack needs eye ointment twice a day for life. He was mistreated in his previous home, so when we first started with this he would run when he saw me coming towards him with something in my hand. For a very long time (several months, perhaps longer I don’t recall) it was a battle, and a two person job. Now all I have to say is “let’s do your eyes” and he sits and waits.
Here’s how we did it in the beginning:
My husband sat on the couch
I handed him the muzzle without Jack seeing
I had the medication and treats close by
I put Jack on the couch
My husband put the muzzle on him from behind
I would constantly praise Jack while I did his eyes
My husband would immediately whip off the muzzle
I gave him a treat
Over time it got easier
My husband didn’t have to clip the muzzle, he could just hold it closed
Then he was able to lightly put the muzzle over his nose from behind.., then it became a one person task. I was able to approach him from the front, drape the muzzle over his nose with one hand and do the drops with the other. We stopped using the muzzle years ago and now he’s a little star.
The key was to do everything as quickly as possible, and over time he became desensitized to the process.
How to Give Your Dog Ear Medication
If your dog needs a “one off” application of ear meds, it’s easy enough for your vet to do it in the office. Since that’s rarely the case, you’ll have to learn to do it at home.
Have your vet show you, then practice at the office to make sure you’re getting the hang of it. You’ll want to be clear on how far into the ear you have to go, or not go.
If he’s a bit snappy use a muzzle, feed him his favorite treats, or have someone else there as a distraction.
For more advice on how to clean your dog’s ears, read this ⇒ “How to Clean Your Senior Dog’s Ears“
How to Give Your Dog an Injection
Have your vet, nurse or vet tech show you how it’s done, and ask for their best tips and tricks to make it as quick and painless as possible…for everyone!
Practice, practice, practice on things other than your dog, in order to build up your confidence and perfect your technique. A stuffed toy or piece of fruit are great substitutes.
Here are a few ideas of what dog parents do. Not every one will work for your dog, so as with most things it can be a case of trial and error.
♦ Give your dog his shot after a walk or play time when he’s tired and less likely to react.
♦ Feed your dog a super delicious treat before, during and after.
♦ Do it right before he’s about to have his meal.
♦ Hide the needle so your dog can’t see it, then “stick him” quickly.
♦ Desensitize him to the sight of the needle by creating positive associations. That means teaching him not to react when he sees it. Start by showing it to him or leaving it on the floor (with the cover over the needle of course), let him sniff around it then praise and treat as long as he’s calm. Practice a few times a day.
♦ Lie down on the couch or floor with your dog, pet him with one hand and inject him with the other.
♦ Bring the needle on your walk and do it while you’re out and he’s distracted.
♦ Don’t make a big deal out of it, just do it and move on.
♦ Insulin is kept in the fridge and it seems when cold it can sting, so warming up the loaded syringe, under your arm for example, might help.
♦ Rather than always giving the shot in the same spot on your dog’s body, change the location where it is administered. Have your vet show you other suitable areas.
♦ Insulin needles are quite small so your dog should hardly feel a thing. If it seems to hurt, or the needles don’t look small, check with your vet to make sure you were given the correct size, or if you could possibly go smaller.
♦ Use a Vetpen to make it easier to give your dog his insulin shot.
How to Give Your Dog Subcutaneous Fluids
Many years ago my cat Mini had kidney issues, and needed fluids on a regular basis. Since it wasn’t convenient or cost effective to keep bringing her to the vet, I had no choice but to learn how to do it myself. I am extremely squeamish so it was not easy for me to take that step.
My cat was pretty much okay with it, so I was able to manage on my own.
I found the best place to do it was the kitchen. I hung the IV bag off a cabinet knob, and put a blanket on the counter. It was simply a matter of pinching some skin on the back of her neck and inserting the needle. The first few times were a bit gross to tell you the truth, but I got used to it.
I had the vet show me how to set it up and insert the needle, but I found I needed some extra help and a little moral support once I got home and had to tackle it on my own. My cousin had quite a bit of experience giving fluids, so he kindly came over and helped.
Make sure your vet, nurse or vet tech guides you before you leave there, and if you have any questions or are feeling unsure, call and ask for help.
Follow the technique they show you, but over time and with experience you may find a way that works better for you and your dog.
Well, there you have it. A long list of helpful suggestions on ways to give your dog a variety of medications. I hope you have found suggestions you haven’t tried before. What tricks have you found work best? Sharing helps others, so please leave your comment below.
I’m a certified dog trainer specialising in working with senior dogs. Whether you have health & wellness concerns, or you’ve just rescued an older dog and need training tips, I can help! Sessions are conducted via Zoom and I offer a FREE 15 minute no obligation chat. To book, email email@example.com or visit my website.