Dear Labby, Why Won’t My Dog Take their Medicine?

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Dear Labby,nopill
My dog refuses to take her pills, no matter how I bury it in her food – I always end up with this:
Frustrated Mom


Dear Frustrated,
Believe me, I understand what you are going through. Our dog Becca was on a good deal of medication when we were fighting her cancer. At first I could just toss it in her food and it didn’t matter, she would eat it. But eventually no matter what I did I couldn’t get her to take it on her own. I tried wrapping it in peanut butter, cheese, turkey, even steak and she would refuse or spit it out. Eventually, I had to resort to one of those pill push/dispenser things.
Now, with Jack, it’s a completely different story. He gets an upset tummy sometimes and I can just offer him his medicine – just straight out of my hand and he will take it and eat it. We aren’t all so lucky.
Close up of human hand holding pills for animal care.Here’s some tricks I have used with my dogs in the past:

  • Make a little meatball with their canned/soft food and bury it in their meal.
  • Coat the pill with peanut butter.
  • Wrap it in something yummy like cheese or turkey.
  • Use Pill Pockets – I’ve used ones made by Greenies – these worked for a long time with Becca.
  • Feed tiny pieces of yummy treats – get a handful and feed to your dog quickly – slip the pill in the middle of the feeding frenzy.
  • Try the human trick of grinding it up and mixing it with ice cream!
  • Try one of those pill push things, or administer it directly. Of course that means holding your dog’s mouth open, placing the pill as far back in their throat as you can and holding their mouth shut until they swallow it. Seems a little aggressive, but I will admit I had to resort to that a few times with Becca. She not only needed her chemo medicine, she needed her pain killers too. You do what you’ve got to do.

      Let’s open this conversation up to our readers too – how do you get your dog to take their medicine?


      Additional Resources:

      How to Get Your Dog to Swallow a Pill
      Giving Your Dog a Pill

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  1. I have one dog that’s like that, too. She won’t even eat the pill if it’s in a pill pocket. I have to just pop them down her throat and hold her mouth closed until she swallows.. She doesn’t like it but it gets the job done. My other dog will take pills really well.
    Lauren Miller recently posted…Sleepy B&W SundayMy Profile

  2. It varies a lot with our dogs. With most of our Labs, we just put the pills in their food, and they gobble them down with their food (but, if you have more than one dog, make sure that the dog really did eat the pill and didn’t leave it in an empty bowl for the other dog to eat). Occasionally, we have to resort to your last resort, which really is effective. Open mouth, put pill on very back of tongue, close mouth and massage throat until they swallow. Then, give them a bunch of treats to make sure that they *really* did swallow the pill (and also to ameliorate the unpleasantness of the last resort for them). In our case, the “last resort” was needed for our dog who had cancer, just like for your Becca.
    KB recently posted…Black Lab SundayMy Profile

  3. Katie is one that refuses to take pills. Mom buries them in everything, Katie sucks all the good stuff off and spits out the clean pill. At this point the only two options are grinding and mixing with yogurt or just shoving it in her throat which Mom hates to do, but is the easiest. Funny, since Bailie and I eat any pill, no problem.
    Emma recently posted…Cat and Dog Pair Giveaway Foiled!My Profile

  4. Great tips, I tell people all those in the clinic. Sometimes you just have to use your fingers and push it down. You can follow it up with a syringe of water or just hold mouth shut and rub throat. I will stick pill in a piece of hotdog.
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…Monday Mischief~RRRRRRRiiiiiiippppppppppMy Profile

  5. Callie & Shadow are the same way…no matter what I wrapped the pill in, they still found it and spit out. So, now I just open their mouths, drop the pill down into their throats, and quickly close and hold their mouths shut till they swallow. But I always follow up with a treat to make it more palatable. With Ducky, I just stick her pill in the middle of a piece of her food and give it to her. She’s in such a hurry to eat the food that she doesn’t realize the pill is hidden in it.
    Callie, Shadow, and Ducky\\\\\\\’s Mom recently posted…Pedigree Dog Food Recall ExpandedMy Profile

  6. With a larger dog, sometimes half a hard boiled egg, with the yolk removed, pill in the hole, and the yolk replaced, slides down so fast they don’t get a chance to work it around to spit it out. Competition for treats with another dog also tends to hurry the gulping. When I’m using liverworst to hide the pill, I usually give a bit of plain to dog A, some plain to dog B, plain to dog A, pilled wrapped with liverworst to dog B, plain to each again. Keep them coming fast.

  7. My dogs get their own “tub” of whipped cream cheese. I take my finger and coat the pill with the cream cheese and they eat it. In the past, when my female Lab got picky, I had to put the salmon cream cheese to coat the pill. Voila! They always thought it was a treat. Now even if they do not have a pill to take, if I give some cream cheese to one dog, the other dog will have to have some cream cheese too. Good luck!

  8. Mom has really lucked out in this department, we take pills like a pro! Great tips!!
    Miley’s Daily Scoop recently posted…Rolling in MischiefMy Profile

  9. Forgot to mention……… if you still have to push it in their mouths, when you close their mouths, gently blow into their nostrils. This stimulates the swallow reflex.

  10. Only way I am going to take a pill is if its put in Liverworst and Ma calls Jenny Sue to come and eat my treat. Jenny will eat anything and if you don’t eat your treat fast enough, Jenny will get it. Sometimes I know what ma is doing so I protest. She tells me that I can take my meds the easy way or the hard way but she says I will take that pill. The hard way is shoving the pill down my throat, the easy way is taking it in a treat.
    Carma Poodale recently posted…Today is Scooby Doo’s BIRTHDAY!!!My Profile

  11. Luckily, getting my two to eat isn’t much trouble. If I throw a pill in with their food, it gets gobbled up with the rest. In the past I’ve also used the “manual” method. If you gently rub a pup’s nose it triggers an automatic swallow. Like a rodeo pro I could usually get the pill in and swallowed before they even knew there was a pill!

  12. We always do the feeding frenzy trick–and use liverworst from the deli. I have them cut up a thick chunk. I cut a few small pieces off–maybe 5 or so. I smoosh the pill in one. Then I line up the little chunks, and give the one with the pill just before the last one. Works every time.

    Wags (and purrs) from Life with Dogs and Cats.
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  13. Thankfully, Mauja and Atka have been taking their pill pretty easily so far. Usually, I can just hide it in the middle of a treat frenzy. We had one dog before that was sooo tricky! We would resort to the last method and blow on his nose to get him to swallow. He eventually learned how to bring the pill off the back of his tongue, stick it in his gums, and swallow. We’d then end up with half dissolved pill on the floor. Stinker 😉 The only thing that worked for him was a peanut butter marshmallow combination (his two to die for treats). I’d take the pill, stuff it in a jumbo marshmallow, then coat the entire thing in peanut butter. The pill just seemed to get caught in all the deliciousness!
    It’s Dog or Nothing recently posted…Righteous Hound Giveaway!My Profile

  14. Great tips! Hiding them in food usually works the best.

  15. Great tips and we’ve used most of them. When all else fails we put the pill on the back of their tongue, gently hold the mouth closed and massage their throat.
    Sue recently posted…Masked Bandits | Monday MischiefMy Profile

  16. fortunately Easy takes his pills … Mark only has to pretend that he likes it and that the pills are his pills now, then the greedy and envious Monster inside of the pup wants it :o)
    easy rider recently posted…easyblog MISCHIEF MOANDAYMy Profile

  17. I hate doing it but unfortunately we’ve tried every method with Laika and administering it directly is what we usually have to resort to. They vet told us the heartworm medicine tasted good; Laika doesn’t agree.
    Jen Jelly recently posted…Dogs Prefer Petting to Vocal PraiseMy Profile

  18. I use the meatball trick to get my dog to eat his pills. He’s an old guy so now practically every bite of dog food has some kind stashed inside.
    Sharon S. recently posted…Paralyzed Kitten Is Learning To WalkMy Profile

  19. I am pretty sure there is something in the peanut butter that mom gives me but it sticks to the roof of my mouth and there’s nothing I can do. We just finished up this product from Earth’s Balance, a bacon paste that you can wrap the pills in, it worked great and I loved it. Always make sure that its okay to crush a pill before you do it though. Love Dolly
    Dolly the Doxie recently posted…Mischief NostalgiaMy Profile

  20. Harley ( the Houdini) will eat the pill pocket and spit (yes I said SPIT) the medicine out onto the floor. The only thing that works is for me to open his mouth and place it in the back of his throat. He gives me no trouble and we get a really nice treat afterwards!

  21. We have used all of the tips that you suggested. It depends on the medicine and how bad they hate it. I have had to add it in a small bread ball for my Golden. You’re right, you have to do what ever works. I’ve definitely done the throat thing. ☺
    M. K. Clinton recently posted…BFTB NETWoof News 9/8/2014My Profile

  22. I have a sort of a paste thing that you put pills in to give to the pets which work great! I have also bought these things at the pet store. I think it’s made by Greenies. They are small treats, but they have a little pocket in them where you can put the pill. It worked great!
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!
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  23. I’ve had to do the shove-down-the-throat thing before. We had to do that sometimes with Abby since she had so many pills/supplements she took for her cancer. But I read that a trainer said, always follow something yucky with something good – so I’d just give her a big yummy treat after, and she was fine with it.

    For Rita, she gets some supplements a few days a month. I used to hide the pill in some cheese, but she started eating the cheese and spitting out the pill! Well, now I keep a second little piece of cheese ready and she’s so busy watching and waiting for that 2nd piece, that she swallows the first piece with the pill with no problem!
    Jackie Bouchard recently posted…Monday Mischief: Sleepover & DNA Test Results MischiefMy Profile

  24. Good tips. We have wet a capsule with water to help it slide down better once you get it to the back of the throat. But mostly we use peanut butter. 🙂
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