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A spoonful of sugar might help our medicine go down, but dogs typically pose a bit more of a challenge. While some dogs dutifully eat their pills with dinner, most tend to need a little encouragement. These tips for giving your dog a pill will make the process more pleasant for everyone involved.

Use Pill Pockets

Not all medication can be given with food. But if it can, putting the pill in a pill pocket or wrapping it in a piece of cheese makes it easy to slip into your dog’s system. Keep in mind that this approach works best for dogs that wolf down treats without chewing. Dogs that chew soft treats may bite into the unpleasant-tasting medicine, making them harder to trick next time. It should be noted that dogs with food sensitivities or allergies might have issues with the ingredients in pill pockets, so consult your veterinarian if your dog has had problems with food in the past.

Yorkshire Terrier laying down in its bed.
STOWEN SETO/Getty Images Plus

Try Compounded or Liquid Medications

Sometimes you can opt for a flavored compounded medication or a chewable “treat” tablet. This works well for dogs that don’t like to swallow their pills. However, these medications can be more expensive — depending on the drug — and your veterinarian may caution against compounding certain drugs because it could impact their effectiveness. Also, not every pharmacy will compound medications. Ask your veterinarian to guide you to pharmacies that are noted for compounding medications.

Use a Pill Device

Administering pills to your dog can pose certain risks. For instance, in order to get the pill far enough back on your dog’s tongue for them to swallow, you need to put your fingers in their mouth. This can lead to accidental bites. Pill devices place the medication in your dog’s mouth, so that you don’t have to expose your fingers to danger. A dog’s tongue has a hump, and in order to succeed in getting them to swallow the pill, you need to place it behind the hump. Once you’ve done that, close their jaws and gently stroke their throat in a downward motion to encourage them to swallow the pill.

Yorkshire Terrier waiting to take its medication.
©karelnoppe -

Get Help

Restraining a dog while also trying to give them medication is difficult. If possible, ask a friend or family member to hold your dog for you, so that you can concentrate fully on the task at hand.

Reward Your Dog

The last thing you want is to make this process stressful. Reward your dog with a small treat after every pill, and do your best to keep both of you calm, no matter how frustrated you get.

Ask Your Veterinarian for a Demonstration

Successful administration of pills is an art form. When in doubt, request a demonstration on proper technique from your veterinarian.

Related article: Can Dogs Get Colds?