Giving Pills to Pets is Tricky

by Gigi McWhirter

Just like humans, some, maybe most, animals do not like taking medications, especially in the form of a pill or capsule.

We have all tried hiding the pill in a favorite treat like peanut butter or stuffing it in something yummy like a chunk of cheese or a treat off our plate. We have bought “pill pockets” in which the medication is placed in the pocket of the treat, and even a piller, a tube-like plunger apparatus with a claw designed to hold a pill so that when pressed, releases the medication into the pet’s mouth — only to discover, that no matter the method, we find the treat has been consumed and the pill spit out.


We then eventually try to force it down the dog which, for the pet, can be terrifying or can cause distrust, and even worse can cause injury to the pet or the pill-giver.

It has been theorized that a dog because of its keen sense of smell can detect the scent of not only the medication but also the scent of the handler on the medication, which is how they know to pick it out.

If you must give a pill either in an emergency or urgent situation and all else fails try using this vet recommended procedure:

  • With one hand, gently grab the muzzle from above, taking care not to place the pet’s lips or your fingers underneath the teeth.
  • Gently, tilt the head back, releasing the lower jaw. With the medication held firmly between index finger and thumb, use your remaining fingers or lower edge of your hand to softly open the jaw.
  • Place the pill as far into the mouth as possible, aiming to drop it on the back third of the tongue.   Quickly close the mouth, holding the jaw closed with your hand.
  • Tenderly massage the throat to stimulate swallowing and permit you to confirm that the pill is “down the hatch.”
  • Now, reward your pet (and yourself) with a favorite treat.

If you are still having trouble dosing your pet, contact your veterinarian to ask for suggestions and possibly try another form of the medication.

Happy Tails to You!