When your dog needs to take a pill


The cute dog in the picture seems to be thinking, “I cannot believe he thinks I’m gonna swallow that pill”.  Not to mention the dangers of hiding under the sink near toxic chemicals!  Is your pet one of those who has figured out the routine and knows precisely what movements, events or body language clearly signal your plans to get a pill inside his tummy?  There is a significant percentage of pets who despise swallowing medication.  And many of those can easily detect it hidden within all sorts of “goodies”.  Consequently, their people become weary and frustrated and dread the procedure as much as their furry friends.

I’m reminded of the dewormer we as vets were forced to use when I first went into practice.  It was delivered within a rubbery capsule and the size of them given varied with the weight of the animal.  But, the size was always way too big for a given pet because of the dosage requirement.  And pity the poor soul who allowed a small hole to form in the capsule because the contents were as bitter and distasteful as industrial strength clear glue.  I honestly believe it would have held a model airplane together it was so sticky.  A rabid animal would not drool any more than one getting a taste of that stuff! You can imagine some of the phone calls I took from distraught clients after such an episode at home.  I don’t think I have appreciated any advancement in veterinary medicine more than the day those things became obsolete.

Still, there are plenty of pets who seem to relish a fight anytime their face is approached with any kind of medication.  Never mind the lack of any violent bitterness such as their predecessors lived through.  So, what does one do?  After all, you have their interest at heart to administer medication to either treat or prevent health issues.  If they are so smart, why can’t they see it for what it is?  Let’s don’t chase that rabbit.  Let’s see what we can possibly do to show that we are smarter.

Have you tried the nifty treats available to “hide” tablets or capsules?  There are several on the market.  If this works, your worries are over.  Here is a picture of one of the more popular ones.


What if those fail, too.  First of all, let’s assume your pet is not aggressive and has never tried to bite anyone giving him a pill.  (We’ll save aggressive pets for another post.)  Let’s call him Barney (as in Fife).  I suggest learning a simple technique that I have found to be effective on large and small pets alike. And gets it over and done quickly.   Lead Barney to an area where he can’t easily run or back away.  If it’s practical, try placing him on a slick surface such as the top of your washing machine or dryer so he can’t get much traction.  Gently rub his head and ears and work your hand over his nose.  Place your thumb around one lip and your fingers around the other so that you are able to curl the lips over the teeth.  He’s smart enough to know when to stop resisting before it’s painful.  Next, quickly and with one motion with your other hand place the pill over the tongue and into the back of his throat.  There aren’t enough taste buds back there to cause any objection to the taste and most of the time a natural swallowing reflex will follow.  If not, hold the mouth closed and gently blow into the nose.  I believe you will be pleased with the results.  Here is a picture worth a thousand words.


  • Once it’s down the hatch, take the opportunity to give a reward and make the experience a happy one in whatever way Barney will respond to the most.
  • One other tactic that might be helpful is to go through all the motions you normally would at pill time, except give a nice treat instead.  Often with enough repetition, Barney might just look forward to the routine.
  • Remember: it is very important to finish giving all the medication as dispensed, even if it takes a week or two.  Stopping too soon can cause a relapse as well as allowing bacteria to develop resistance to antibiotics.

About drpearson3

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