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If you’ve tried to give a dog a pill before, you’ll know it can be trickier than it seems. 

Surprisingly, while many dogs will eat anything off the ground, (dirty kleenex? poopsicles? yum!) if it’s something you are “forcing” them to eat, they become suspicious.

Typically, when it’s time to give your dog something they don’t want to eat, they can sense it from a mile away.

And yet, a botched attempt could result in a loss of trust.

Learning how to properly give a dog a pill can save you a world of frustration.

What if they’re uncooperative, or if you have to give them a pill multiple times a day for many days? Well, this can easily become very stressful for both you and your dog.

Your dog is smart, and is very adept at reading your facial expressions and mood. So, if you are anxious, your dog will sense this and be anxious, too!

However, depending on your dog’s personality and the type and size of pill being given, there are various options you can try if your dog won’t take a pill.

Start With Your Vet

Cartoon of a veterinarian checking a small dog

Most importantly, if you choose an option that involves altering the pill, first check with your vet to see if the pill can be crushed or otherwise modified. For example, some medications may lose their effectiveness if you crush them. Additionally, crushing a pill can also add to a bitter taste.

If you choose the option of hiding the pill in people food, there are things you will need to consider.

Make sure it’s safe for your dog to eat the food you choose. For example, some artificial sweeteners are toxic for dogs. Similarly, some foods may be too rich for your dog; this could be a concern if the pills have to be given for an extended period of time.

And be aware of any food sensitivities your dog might have. Also, check to make sure that the food you are using won’t negatively interact or compromise the effects of the medication.

First, ask your vet if the prescribed medication is tasty. Some companies infuse pills with “meat” scent so your dog really thinks it’s food. If there is a choice of medications, go for the taste. If it tastes like a treat, your dog will happily eat the pill right out of your hand.

1. Add It To Their Food

dog eagerly looks at bowl of food

This is the easiest method to give a dog a pill. After all, a dog’s gotta eat! Simply add the pill to the regular feeding. Bury that pill! For instance, if your dog truly will eat anything and is not a picky, suspicious eater, you can try putting the pill in the bowl with your dog’s regular food. They may not even notice.

If it’s dry kibble, try adding it so that it’s hidden in the rest of the food. If it’s canned food, use a small amount and use it to coat the pill like making “a pill meatball” and then bury it in the food.

If your dog still sniffs the bowl and walks away, or manages to devour every piece of kibble but leaves the pill behind, you can try enhancing the flavor of the regular food by sprinkling on some “treat” powder, like liver powder.

If you don’t mind smelling up your food processor, you can grind regular liver treats, like Benny Bullies. I’ve never met a dog that didn’t love liver treats!

However, if you prefer to let someone else do the messy work, you can try liver powder. One I like is

CurEase Argentine Grass Feed Beef Liver Powder

. It comes in a ready to use shaker jar. Just sprinkle on your dog’s regular food, making sure to get some on the pill.

2. Use Your Hand!

an outstretched hand holding a pill

Simply put the pill down your dog’s throat. This method works on some dogs. If the specific condition your dog needs the pill for is making them not eat, this may be your only option.

However, if your dog is a biter, do not try this method.

To give your dog a pill using this method, gently hold your dog’s snout and tip their head back. Use one hand to pry open their mouth and drop the pill in as far back as you can get it, then hold the mouth closed and gently massage the throat until your dog swallows.

But, make sure the pill doesn’t sit on the tongue, especially if it has a bitter taste. Your dog will probably promptly spit it out. It has to go as deep in the throat, as quickly as possible. Gently hold the mouth closed and massage the throat until your dog has swallowed.

Follow up with a drink of water, or a treat, to wash away any taste of the pill. A little play or cuddle session will end the experience on a happy note!

3. Pill Pockets

A very easy way to give a dog a pill is to use commercially available pockets! 

To use them, you insert the pill in the cavity of the soft pocket. Press the ends together so that the pill is completely enclosed.

You can then give the whole thing as a treat, or try putting it in to the food bowl. My dog loves Greenies Pill Pockets They come in a variety of sizes and flavors, choose which best suits your dog and the type of pill.

If you don’t want to use a pill pocket, any soft malleable treat would work here. The best part of this method is that it can be incorporated into normal activities. For example, these modified treats could be used during leash training. 

4. Hide the Pill in “People” Food

Most dogs want what you’re having, so they will be happy to gulp down a piece of cheese, or bread.

Basically, any food that can be hollowed out can become a ‘trojan horse’ for doggy pills. Essentially, you can give your dog a pill by sneaking it inside yummy “people” food.

You can try cheese sticks – these are soft and pliable. You cut off a piece and push the pill into it, then cover pill by pressing the ends together. Similarly, a soft piece of bread works well.

Alternatively, you could use a piece of soft fruit like Watermelon, which is good for dogs when prepared correctly. Just be sure to check with your vet before feeding anything new to your pup!

In the same vein, you can try coating the pill, with something like peanut butter. Any food that will stick to the pill would work.

You can also try hot dogs or other soft meat that you can squeeze the pill in to.

Again, make sure the food is OK for canine consumption before you hide the pill in it. And avoid foods with high sugar or fat as they will be hard to digest.

No use to have the pill hidden in food that will make the dog even sicker!

It’s probably best if you don’t let your dog see what you are doing when you are hiding the pill.

5. Make it a Game

dig playing with a ball

Give your dog a pill by making it fun! Turn it into a game using treats and a “bait and switch” approach.

Once you decide how you want to disguise the pill, make it in 3 parts.

First, use just a piece of the food as the reward. Then, give the food with the pill hiding inside. Finally, end with a reward of just the food.

A good cuddle or play session will leave your dog with happy memories and make the next pill session easier!

In Conclusion

Giving your dog a pill doesn’t have to be a big challenge. You know your dog’s personality and how they may respond to the different methods.

A word of warning…

If you have more than one dog, you need to be careful if you are putting the pill into a food bowl – one of my dogs likes to finish the other one’s food, and once the pill ended up in the wrong dog. In other words, if the “pill dog” is not one for quickly emptying the bowl, you have to stand guard and make sure the pill ends up in the right dog!


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