Dog looking out corner of eye

If your dog is receiving treatment or medication for a medical problem, it may need to take pills. Sometimes though, getting your dog to take a pill is more difficult than you might think. It can depend on the particular dog and its willingness to eat – some dogs will be much pickier than others.

Giving your dog their tablets can be very challenging, especially if they tend to bite at your fingers if you try to place the pill down their throat. So how can you encourage your dog to take its medicine? One of the strategies is to link taking their pill to something positive such as walks, treats, playing and other positive rewards.

When a vet is getting your dog to take a pill, the dog will be unable to escape as it will be shut in a consulting room. This makes it easier to control the pet, especially if they are small and can be placed on a table for easier handling. Vets tend to be very good at keeping dogs calm to minimise the chances of your pet becoming distressed. Usually, the vet will be talking to you and they will nonchalantly pop the pill in your dog's mouth when everyone is distracted, including your canine friend. If the dog starts to panic,  it may simply be a case of giving your pet a little bit of fuss and comfort to help them calm down again.

So how can you make pill-taking easier for your pet at home? Here are some tips to keep in mind:


Get a Palatable Version of the Pill

There are a number of different palatable versions of medicine for dogs, which means that the medicine will taste more pleasant for them. If your dog is not fussy with their food, they might like the taste of these flavoured medications and this can be an easy way to give them the pill that they need. All you need to do is give them the pill and they will eat it voluntarily – easy!

However, if you are using these tasty tablets it is very important to keep them out of reach of your dog. Because they taste good, your dog is more likely to eat too many and overdose if they get into the package on their own.


Hide it In Food

Many dogs especially those who really love their food, will end up eating a pill if it is disguised within their dinner. Try hiding the pill within a special treat to tempt your dog into taking it. There are even doughy dog biscuits that are designed so that you can hide the pill in the treat and give them to your dog.

There are also foods in your home that you can use – just choose anything that is somewhat sticky so that you can hide the tablet within it. The flavour should be strong enough to mask the flavour of the medicine – a lump of ham works well for example. It is also a good idea to start with an empty treat first so that your dog gets used to the treats and looks forward to them.


A Pill Pushing Device

Another option is a device that allows you to push the tablet to the back of your dog’s throat, without the risk of them biting off your fingers. These pill-pushing devices are available from your vet and they usually work well for small dogs. However, they can be tricky to use and they require a lot of practice. Once you get the hang of them they can be very effective.


The Technique that Vets Use

Another strategy to use is the technique that your vet likely uses, which can be simple and effective when mastered.

First, start by restraining your pet – or asking someone else to help you hold it down. Confidently take hold of your dog’s upper jaw and tilt its nose toward the sky. When your dog is looking up at the ceiling, its lower jaw will open slightly.

At this point, you can slide the fingers of your hand that is holding the upper jaw just behind the canines. This will usually cause your dog to open their mouth allowing you to put pressure on its palate to keep its mouth open. With your other hand, you can place the pill as far back in their mouth as possible. Then close your dog’s jaws and gently rub down its throat. They will naturally respond by swallowing the pill. If not, try squirting a little water into their mouth which will also make them want to swallow in this position.

The idea of this technique is that you are trying to get the pill past a certain point on the back of their tongue so that they will swallow it using a reflex action. By holding their upper jaw in this position and restraining them you make it very difficult for your dog to bite you – which is why it is safer for you. There are videos of this technique online that you can watch if you want to see a demonstration. 

Remember to keep your dog calm and to make the movements quickly, smoothly and with confidence. If you are unsure of yourself and are panicking or making shaky movements, this will cause your dog to become stressed and they will struggle more.

You can also ask your vet to give you a demonstration of this technique and perhaps let you practice it in their office a few times so that you can become more comfortable with it.


Giving Your Dog the Medicine They Need

Even though it is difficult to give your dog a pill if they don’t want to take it, it is very important to give your pet the medicine that they need. When they are suffering from an illness, the right treatment is essential for their recovery, so taking care of their upkeep and medicine treatment is essential. Make sure that they take the right dosage at the correct time and if you think you might forget, set an alarm on your phone to remind yourself.

If you have any questions or need any more advice surrounding giving your dogs tablets, get in touch with us today.