When your dog needs medicine or a dog vitamin, it can be a challenge to get them to take it. If they smell the medicine or realize you are nervous about giving it to them, your dog may refuse to take their medication. Thankfully, dogs respond well to positive reinforcement, giving us plenty of tips and tricks for giving our dog pills.
Why Do Dogs Refuse to Take Medication?
By understanding what causes a dog to refuse to take medication, you can have a better sense of how and why some of our pill-giving tricks for dogs work. A dog’s sense of smell can be up to a million times more sensitive than a human’s, meaning the pill you’ve so cleverly hidden can be immediately obvious to them. Their sense of taste is less developed, but some think that the bitter taste of some dog medications can be a deterrent.
Dogs are also very perceptive to your feelings. If you feel anxious about giving your dog medication, they may pick up on it and refuse to take their medication due to your unconscious signaling.
Tricks for Giving Pills to Your Dog
- Mix the pill in with their dinner. This helps determine how resistant your dog is to taking medication. Some dogs may not even notice the pill in their dinner, while others will leave a single pill behind in a bowl full of kibble. If your dog is the latter, try one of the other methods.
- Skip the slow-eater bowl. If your dog uses a special bowl to slow down their eating, eliminate it while they need to take a pill. The faster they eat, the less likely they are to notice the pill.
- Hide the pill in a special, smelly food. Try to mask the smell of the pill with something powerful. Peanut butter, cheese, and wet dog food are some of the most successful foods that dog owners use to give their dog a pill.
- Use a pill pocket. Pill pockets are treats designed to hide pills for dogs who refuse to take medication. Simply insert the pill and give it to them as a normal treat.
- Give a treat before and after. Give your dog a normal treat and lots of encouragement prior to the pill, then give them the pill using the method of your choice. Follow it up with another non-pill treat and exclamations of encouragement.
- Associate the pill with something they love. Create a good association with taking their medication by giving it to them on a walk or at the dog park. Your dog will be more distracted in a different setting, so they’ll be less suspicious of their treat.
- Don’t let your dog see the pill bottle. Just as dogs will see you grab their leash and get wildly excited for their walk, they can also create negative associations. Be sure they never see or hear you opening their medication in order for them to not have a reason to refuse to take their pill, however you choose to dispense it.
- Inspire jealousy. Gather at least one other dog with yours, and give treats to all the dogs except yours. Let their excitement build to make sure they’ll eat whatever is given, and then give them the pill hidden in a treat.
How to Give Your Dog Pills Without Food
If your dog won’t eat or has a medical reason for not taking pills with food, you can try some of these methods:
- Use a gelatin capsule. Similar to a pill pocket, gelatin capsules are tasteless, flavorless coatings to mask the pills scent and taste. If your dog needs multiple pills, you may be able to fit multiple pills in one capsule and minimize your struggle to get your dog to take their pills.
- Place the pill in their mouth. Pry open your dog’s mouth and place the pill far back on their tongue. Gently massage their throat to encourage swallowing. Recruit someone else to help you restrain and soothe the dog. Be careful, as there may be some risk of biting.
- Ask your vet for other forms of medicine. Some medicines also come in liquid form or as an injection. If your dog continues to refuse to take their medication, it’s worth asking your vet about other options.
Can You Crush Pills for Dogs?
Many dog owners assume they can crush up the pill and mix it in with the dog’s food to trick the dog into swallowing the pill. Check with your vet to make sure the pill will still be effective when crushed, and then make sure your dog eats all the food with the crushed pill. If they don’t finish their food, you can’t be sure they have enough of the medicine for it to be effective.
It’s frustrating when your dog refuses to take medication, but there are many foolproof tricks for giving your dog a pill. If you are relaxed and create positive associations for your dog and experiment with different pill delivery methods, even the pickiest pup can be persuaded to swallow a pill.