Fun Tricks to Give Your Dog Pills

Updated on March 4, 2016
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Adrienne is a former veterinary hospital assistant, certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, and author of "Brain Training for Dogs."

Giving a dog a pill
Giving a dog a pill | Source

Why are Some Dogs so Difficult to Give Pills?

So you need to give your dog a pill and you are looking for some tricks of the trade. No worries, you are not alone! Many, many dog owners have the same problem! Indeed, when I worked for an animal hospital we often had appointments just for this purpose. Yes, dogs and cats were coming to see us just to get their pills!The dog owners were so desperate, they were willing to pay a fee just so we could administer pills to their finicky dogs and cats!

This wasn't a bad idea after all. Many dogs and cats may and will put up a fight when they don't want to ingest pills. Cornering the dog to give it pills can be an easy way to get bit. Cats at times can be even more dangerous than dogs. I have seen some nasty injuries from fractious kitties. On the contrary, many dogs will take pills with no issue. Why is that?

Well, for starters, some pills just simply taste awful. You can't just tell a dog to take the pill in his mouth and wash it down with a big gulp of water. If you don't know how to give pills to your dog, most likely you are making him taste it--which will cause him to categorically spit it out --Once your dog discovers you are trying to give him a pill, he will likely give you distance increasing signals and disappear in thin air.

Hunting him down with a pill in your hand is a daunting and unnerving task. It leads to problems. Your dog may become defensive and this can lead to a bite. Often this happens when your dog is in a corner with no way out or under a bed as his flight option (ability to flee) is taken away. Trying to pull him out from under a bed is unsafe and so is chasing him down and cornering him. Of course, this doesn't apply to all dogs, many dogs have higher bite thresholds than others, but keep in a corner of your mind that any dog (yes, even the angelic ones with halos over their heads) will bite in certain circumstances.

There's no denial over the fact that fighting your dog to get him to ingest his pills is not a pleasant task. It could also affect your future interactions with your dog. If you forcefully open your dog's mouth to push that pill down his throat, a time may come where he won't allow you to touch his mouth area any more. He'll likely says "hasta la vista, baby!" and turn his head the other way. This may translate into difficult future veterinary exams when his mouth needs to be checked.

So how can you make giving pills a more pleasant task? There are several tricks of the trade.-We will see several options in the next paragraph along with some tricks and options to muffle that awful taste--

Five pills dressed up as cheese balls!


Six Ways to Hide Dog Pills

So your veterinarian prescribed pills for your dog. Just as in humans, pills come in different shapes and sizes. You may be lucky and have tiny pills,or you may be unlucky and be stuck with horse-size pills. Regardless, most likely the pills are not flavored, so giving them may be an arduous task. No worries! There are several tricks of the trade, and I will also share some ideas I have come up with when pilling my dogs. Here are several:

Cheese Balls

Does your dog love cheese? If so, your dog will love this trick. In this case, you'll roll up your dog's pills in slices of American cheese and close the edges so the pill is undetected. This works well with most dogs, but at times, the cheese may unroll in their mouth and your dog will detect the pill. After ward, they may get finicky and will not even want the cheese anymore, because they associate it with the bitter taste.

Better off, try making cheese balls. I just came up with this the other day, as I was about to pill a dog I was boarding and sent him out briefly to potty with the cheese in my pocket. Being almost 100 degrees as it often turns out to be in sunny Arizona, the cheese softened to such a degree, that it was the consistency of play dough. I placed the pill in the middle and made a tight ball. We then did a bit of training exercises and he was rewarded with the cheese balls which he readily ate. So if you want to try cheese balls, leave the cheese out of the fridge for some time, and warm it up keeping the sealed slices between your hands. That should do the trick to make it soft enough as play dough.

*Note: there are some medications that shouldn't be taken with any dairy products such as cheese. This info may be on the label or accompanying medical leaflet, but not always. Ask your vet before trying this trick.

Hot Dogs

Most dogs won't turn down hot dogs. In this case, you'll need a big enough chunk to hide the pill. Remember: should the dog to detect the pill, he may lose trust and then become suspicious of any future tricks you may try. We will look at how to remedy this, should this happen in the next paragraph. So back to hot dogs, this works well for dogs who will just gulp down the hot dog, no question asked. However, the disadvantage is that often parts of the pill may stick out the hot dog which will be readily detected. You can't make hot dog balls as the cheese, so hot dogs may or may not work out.


You can make your pooch some fun to eat meatballs. In this case, you can soak some dry kibble in water and then grind it up until you can make some "meatballs" you can hide the pill in. If you feed raw, just make a meatball with ground meat. Another option is to use some canned food to make the meatball or some meat-based baby food with no onion or garlic in it mixed with some ground kibble to make it more dense. You can get creative here and use anything your dog likes, ground it up and then add the ground kibble to get the right consistency. For a special touch, roll the meat balls in the ground kibble.

Creamy Textures

Foods with a creamy texture can also help camouflage a pill and transform it into a tasty treat. In this cases we're talking about things like peanut butter and cream cheese. Veterinarian Karen Becker also suggests using coconut oil to hide pills. These work well because they are sticky so it's hard for the dog to separate the pills from the creamy texture. Most likely, the dog will just take it all together and gulp the whole concoction down.

Savory Sprinkles

If you want to try this option, make sure you read the medication's label and instructions carefully, and if in doubt, ask your vet. Some medications should not be crushed and capsules should not be opened as they can do harm this way. If your vet gives you the OK to crush the pill or open the capsule, you can sprinkle it on your dog's kibble in hopes he just eats it all. However, consider that you may lose a pill this way if your dog refuses to eat his food and that he may leave some food behind and this will prevent him from having the full dose he needs.

A better option is to mix the powdered pill with the dog's canned food. Most dogs love canned food and since the canned food is sticky, it will be difficult for him to separate any pill particles from the food.

Pill Pockets

Alternatively, if you don't like to feed people food and are looking for a healthier option, you can try pill pockets. These are sold at the vet's office or at your favorite pet store. They consist of hollow treats in different flavors that can be filled with the pill and then closed. There are pill pockets made for capsules and pill pockets made for tablets. Flavors to choose from consist of Chicken, Peanut Butter, or Hickory Smoke.

What if your dog doesn't have an appetite? What if you're tired of hiding pills? What if these treats don't work as your dog learns there's a pill inside? There are further solutions for these problems. Let's look at some troubleshooting ideas.

Using cheese balls to train a fun recall to a client's dog

How to give your dog a pill without food

Troubleshooting How to Give Pills to a Dogs

So you are upset because you have already tried hiding the pill and it just didn't work for your dog. Or it could be your dog has a lack of appetite, but still needs to take his pills. These are some ideas for those difficult and a bit challenging cases.

Your Dog Discovers You're Hiding Something

So your dog was always great in taking his pills well hidden in some cheese, and now, suddenly, he casually discovered that there's a pill inside. If so, he may start getting all suspicious carefully sniffing the cheese as if he lost trust. To help him overcome the problem, give him several pieces of cheese in a row WITHOUT the pill. Start with small pieces that your dog can visibly see there's nothing inside. Then make them bigger and bigger, and then shape them as if the pill was inside. Once he's taking these, then casually add the piece of cheese with the pill inside, immediately followed by one without it.

Giving a piece of cheese immediately after the one with the pill, will help him gulp the pill down in his eagerness to get the next piece of cheese. It doesn't hurt to do this exercise sometimes if you have a dog who gets suspicious every now and then. Give like five treats in a row, and then randomly mixed in give one with the pill followed by one without it. If your dog is used to you tossing treats as a game, toss his pill hidden in food as well. Many dogs are so eager to catch the food that they'll just swallow quickly in hopes of continuing the game.

Your Dog is Sick and Won't Eat

This is when things get difficult. Your dog is sick, has lost his appetite, but it's very important that he has his pill as his medicine should help him get better so his appetite comes back. Or your dog has allergies and is on strict diet and you can't give the pill in a treat. In this case, you have several options, but your dog won't likely love them. See video on the side on how to accomplish this without food.

The first option is just that, forcing the pill down. In this case, you'll kneel down at your dog's level and hold his muzzle with one hand upwards facing the ceiling. With the other hand, you'll pry the mouth open and push the pill as back as possible. Afterwards, massage the dog's throat or blow on his nose to encourage swallowing. Praise and pet your dog to reward him. It's very important to check if your dog actually swallowed the pill. Some dogs are artists in this and will hide the pill in their mouth and spit it out later.

Alternatively, you can employ a pill popper. This tool is simply a sort of syringe that will deliver the pill without the need to stick your hands in your dog's mouth. To see how to use a pill popper watch the video below.

You're Tired of Making Treats

Don't have the time or will to crush, hide or sprinkle pills on your dog's food? Not looking forward to feeding your dog people food? Then you may may want to contact an apothecary. What's an apothecary? It's a compounding pharmacy that formulates and dispenses pharmaceutical products. When we had clients at our vet's office with finicky dogs and cats, we referred them to a pet apothecary. Some had some lip smacking options. For instance, Pleasant Hills Apothecary offers over 100 flavors just dedicated to animals!

Have a special trick to share? Post it in the comment section below!

Alexadry© 2013 All rights reserved, do not copy

How to Give your Dog a Pill using the Pill Popper and Other Methods

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    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 20 months ago from USA

      Yes, this trick to give pills is the one that works best for my dogs as well!

    • profile image

      Lilli's Pal 20 months ago

      This turned out to be the most effective trick in this article:

      "To help him overcome the problem, give him several pieces of cheese in a row WITHOUT the pill. Start with small pieces that your dog can visibly see there's nothing inside. Then make them bigger and bigger, and then shape them as if the pill was inside. Once he's taking these, then casually add the piece of cheese with the pill inside, immediately followed by one without it."

      Thank you so much for sharing this!

      Lilli is a small dog so I form four small meatbals out of "paté" style canned dog food (Nature's Balance beef formula) and I put a pill in one. Then I hand feed her two of the unloaded meatballs to "prime the pump", give her the third 0ne (loaded with the pill), and immediately follow up with another unloaded one before she has a chance to discover the pill. She's a smart little thing and will probably figure out what's happening at some point, but so far so good.

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 2 years ago from USA

      Thanks for sharing your tricks to give your dog pills Lorinne!

    • profile image

      Lorinne Anderson 2 years ago

      My favorite method is PROCESSED CHEESE SLICES. One slice will easily do 5-10 doses, just leave out to soften for a bit, peel open pkg, then fold cheese (the correct size to hide pill) over 1/4 to 1/2 inch and it will separate leaving a nice pliable strip. Place pill on strip and roll, pinch ends and voila, a cheap, tiny, cheese pocket that the dogs adore and (according to my vet) complies with meds that must be given on an empty stomach.

      Then close the film back up, refrigerate until next dose, and repeat.

      My 15 yr old rescue Pin needs 3 heart meds on an empty stomach. 0ne capsule twice daily, one quartered pill twice daily and one round pill once daily. I use the same tiny strip for all her meds each time she gets dosed; the capsule at one end and roll, the others at the other end and roll towards capsule, this end I pinch just to be sure nothing escapes.

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 4 years ago from USA

      Pushing pills out is quite a creative way to avoid those pills! Thanks for the votes up and share!

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 4 years ago from America

      I have had dogs push the pills right out no matter what we did. We just adopted a new pup. We have not owned a puppy in a long time and have not to give him a pill yet. Interesting hub voted up and shared.

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 4 years ago from USA

      Aren't they!? My dogs outsmart me many times when it comes to giving pills. With Petra I had to come from plan A, to plan B, to plan C and plan D at times to get them to eat them. I had to get creative. Luckily now I found flavored tablets my girl loves so we don't have go through all of that again! Thanks for sharing your stories of Bella!

    • wetnosedogs profile image

      wetnosedogs 4 years ago from Alabama

      Bella got smart with the peanut butter. She can get the peanut butter and push the pill around. Cheese does work and the vet also suggested cottage cheese. I put it on a paper plate though and hold it down since it doesn't work putting it on a spoon. Cream cheese was also suggested. This was tips from the vet after Bella, hearing the word shot, got herself all worked up and was shaking like crazy, she was so scared. I don't give her any medicine when she is under the bed, she will slip it out and on the carpet, even with one of her favorites, cheese. These dogs are just too smart.

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