What is the best way to give a dog pills?
This question comes up a lot in the forums, and there really isn’t just one right answer.
The short version: whichever way gets the pill in his mouth, down his throat, and into his system!
Of course, if it was that easy, you wouldn’t be searching for advice on pilling a dog, now would you?
That’s why today, we’re going to discuss different methods for how to give a dog a pill.
You may also want to check out ►►►Tips for Medicating Your Dog Without Losing Your Mind ◄◄◄
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What is the Best Way to Give a Dog Pills?
As I said above, How to give a pill to a dog is a frequently asked and searched question among dog owners.
These medications are excellent for our dogs’ health, but they aren’t always easy to actually get INTO our pooches.
As any dog owner knows, dogs are a lot like toddlers: they put everything into their mouths EXCEPT what we want them to.
It can be a real struggle. Today, we’ll explore four methods that work well.
First, though, let’s answer another burning question on our minds: why do meds even come in pill form for dogs?
Why Do Medications Even Come in Pill Form
Many people ask why any medication would even come in pill form when it can be so difficult to get them into our dogs.
Well, there are a couple of answers to that question.
They’re actually human medications!
These are just two examples of an extensive list of human medications which are prescribed to dogs quite regularly.
Because humans are usually able to take pills, there is no incentive for manufacturers to invest more money into making liquid versions of these medicines unless they have variations for child use.
Pills absorb at a slower rate, and sometimes that’s necessary.
Speed of absorption is another reason that some medications are only available in pill form.
There are times when our dogs need medications to absorb quickly, and there are times when a medication performs its intended action better when released slowly.
A liquid will always be absorbed quickly within the GI tract.
Medications that require a slower absorption time must be administered in pill form so that they can be absorbed more slowly and act over a period of time.
How to Give a Pill to a Dog
There is more than one method of giving dogs pills. We’re going to talk about all of them today because not all methods work for all situations.
Let’s take a look at how to get that pill into your furry friend.
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Often the easiest way to give a dog a pill is to simply wrap it up in something delicious. The treat method is far and away the easiest of all ways to get a pill into your dog.
To do this, simply wrap your dog’s pill in cheese, a slice of lunch meat, or bury it in a blob of peanut butter. You can even find Pill Pockets (see our top pick below).
These are treats that have a hole in the middle so that you can insert the pill, pinch off the end, and trick your dog into thinking he’s getting nothing more than a fun snack.
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- When it comes to meds, pets are smart—but you’re smarter: GREENIES Pill Pockets are a vet-recommended medicating treat hack you and your dog will love
- These easy-to-use medicating pouches make taking medicine a positive experience for your dog
Chewables have been on the market for several years now, and they’ve been a game-changer for many medications.
They essentially infuse the medication your dog needs into a treat form. Some antibiotics, for example, come in chewable form.
The most common medication available in chewable form is oral-administered flea and tick control and heartworm preventative.
The Pilling Method
While using treats is the easiest method for giving a pill, there are times when you can’t do that.
For example, my dog has liver disease, and he has to take Denamarin, a liver health supplement.
To be properly absorbed, this pill must be given on an empty stomach. Even a little food will interfere with proper absorption and effectiveness.
There are many medications like this out there, which means the treat method is a no-go for them.
That brings us to what is commonly called “pilling”. Pilling is essentially forcing the pill into your dog.
It sounds like torture, but for most dogs and their owners, it’s relatively easy and completely painless. It is done in four easy(ish) steps.
1. Tilt the Head Back
Be sure you have the pill firmly between your index finger and thumb and then tilt your dogs head back.
2. Open His Mouth
While your dog’s head is tilted back, open his mouth using your empty hand on the top of his muzzle and your other hand on the bottom. It’s important to use your pill hand for the bottom jaw for this to make the next step easier.
3. Insert the Pill
When his mouth is open, quickly move your index finger and thumb holding the pill to the back of your dog’s mouth where the mouth begins to meet the esophagus. Quickly close his mouth, keeping his head up.
4. Massage the Throat
Massage your dog’s throat gently moving your hand from the top of his throat downward. This will cause your dog to swallow.
►►►Need a visual guide to pilling your dog? Check out this video!◄◄◄
The Other Pilling Method
Yes, there are two. If your dog throws his head or fights excessively against the first method, this one can be quite helpful.
For this method, you’ll need what’s called a Pill Gun. It’s not a gun, at all so don’t worry about using excessive force.
A pill gun is simply a hollow plastic tube with a plunger on one end and a soft rubber tube on the other.
To use it, you put the pill in the soft rubber end, put it at the back of your dog’s mouth, and then use the plunger to pop the pill out.
This method is exceptionally helpful if your dog instinctively tends to bite down when you attempt to pill him.
I want to stress that this biting behavior is NOT an attack. Rather, it is an instinctive attempt to force the object (your hand or the Pill Gun) out of his mouth.
Aside from using the Pill Gun, this pilling method is exactly the same as the first one. The only difference is that holding the Pill Gun makes it a bit more awkward.
Simply follow the steps in the previous pilling method using the Pill Gun in place of your fingers.
The video below shows a vet using a Pill Gun on a cat, but the same concept applies for dogs.
Now You Know How to Give a Pill to a Dog
Giving a pill to a dog can be difficult. Some dogs are on medications that need to be given on an empty stomach.
Some dogs are just too darn smart to fall for the treat trick. To further complicate matters, even the most well-behaved dog can flop like a fish out of water when pill time comes around.
The methods laid out above answer the question “how to give a pill to a dog” and they can drastically improve the experience for both you and your dog.
So remember, always ask your vet if a chewable version of the medication your dog needs is available as your first step.
If not, opt for treats if possible. If the medication requires an empty stomach, you’re stuck with pilling.
As I always told clients at the vet, remember that no matter how much your dog seems to hate it, he has no idea that you’re helping keep him healthy and happy. So don’t give in. Good luck!