Dog Won’t Take Pills? Easy Solutions Revealed!

Do you have a stubborn dog that simply can’t be tricked into taking pills? I was recently asked for ideas to help get a dog to simply eat a tablet. The dog needed these antibiotics for an infection but refused to be tricked. Does this sound familiar? Today, I’m going to reveal my box of magic for when a dog won’t take pills. I’ll also share how this little dog happily took her antibiotic. 

While I’ve had dogs in the past that I needed to trick to get prescriptions down them, I’m super lucky with my dog, Henry. He will let me open his mouth and gently place a pill at the back of his mouth. I hold his mouth close gently until he swallows and then he gets lots of kisses and a treat as a reward. He’s happy and I’m thrilled!

dog won't take pills now begs for more yummy "treats"
disclaimer note

Budget tip:

If your dog is prescribed medication, then it’s best to get your dog to take it successfully. Sometimes it can be frustrating if your dog continues to refuse to take or swallow the pill. You may even think the heck with it and stop trying. But if the medication is an antibiotic, pain medication, or a prescribed dog medication, then it can be vital to prevent a more serious health issue. That could mean a pricey vet bill if you simply don’t give your dog the pills. While these simple ideas don’t cost much, they can easily aid you in getting your dog to take a pill. That’s a huge win-win for your dog and your budget.

NOTE: Always check with your vet before changing the consistency of a tablet or breaking it. Additionally, your vet may know great ideas for helping to get your dog to take his/her prescription. 

What basic methods are there I can try when my dog won’t take a pill? 

The idea of getting your dog to take a prescription is to disguise the taste. With this in mind, you can try tricks, which help to overwhelm the often bitter taste of pills such as:

  • Bacon
  • Cheese
  • Tiny meatball
  • Wet dog food (or canned food)
  • Small piece of hot dog (no spice or salt – more)
  • Pill pocket
  • Dog-friendly peanut butter (just peanuts-no Xylitol)

How do I make my own pill pockets for my dog?

I always think homemade is better than store-bought, when possible. You get to control ingredients in the production with homemade. I say that’s an improvement. Plus, this recipe is much cheaper than the store-bought version. 

Homemade pill pocket Recipe

These are also considered functional cookies because they serve a purpose for your dog. 

  • 2 T dog-friendly smooth peanut butter (again without Xylitol)
  • 2 T water (or plain chicken broth without spices or salt)
  • 4 t quick oats pulverized in the blender to a powder form
  • Mix ingredients together
  • Roll small balls in your hands to a round ball the with about ½” diameter (you can make them larger or smaller, depending on your dog)
  • Make a hole in the center of the pocket round
  • Place the pill (or pill mush as described below) into the hole
  • Pinch hole closed
  • Give to your dog immediately
  • Store remaining pill pockets in the fridge
  • This recipe can be cut in ½ or doubled depending on your dog’s needs

What can I do to encourage my dog to swallow a pill?

There are a few tricks to get your dog to swallow a pill, after getting your pup to put it in his/her mouth. Some tricks include:

  1. Blowing into your dog’s nostrils while gently holding your pup’s mouth closed. This is easy by putting your hand on your dog’s lower jaw and gently pushing your pup’s head up. 
  2. Rubbing your dog’s throat and holding his/her mouth gently shut

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My dog still isn’t willing to put the medication in his/her mouth. What now?

There’s another idea that will mask the smell of the medication. You can put a very small dab of pure vanilla (no alcohol) on top of your dog’s nose and under the nostrils. However, make sure that the vanilla is pure without alcohol. All forms of alcohol are very toxic to dogs, especially small dogs. 

My dog isn’t falling for any of those tricks to take a pill. What else can I try?

This is where I came in the other day with the little dog. The dog’s parents had tried all those ideas and were left frustrated. One little dog was outwitting two grown adults. Have you ever been in this situation? 

This is when you have to change the pill consistency altogether. Then mask it in something that will be yummy for your dog. Yep, you have to outsmart your dog!

How can I get medication down my dog easily?

There are three good options that generally work when everything else fails. However, you’ll need to ask your vet if the pill can be crushed or mixed with liquid. Most can without issue. But as stated earlier if it’s a time-released prescription or a capsule, you may not be able to try these out on your dog. With these options, basically, you’ll be changing your dog’s medicine into a liquid medication your pup will love! 

Option 1

This will require you to ground the pill into a powder form. It’s easy with a mortar and pestle. Or you can do it with patience using the back of a spoon and a small bowl. I often used a mortar and pestle to grind up pills for my horses. 

Here’s what you’ll want to do:

1. Ground the pill into powder form

2. Mix the powdered pill into something your dog LOVES, usually dog-friendly peanut butter (just peanuts no Xylitol) or pumpkin (just pumpkin no spices, or salt) will work. It doesn’t take much to mix it. 

3. For added encouragement you can put the peanut butter or pumpkin pill mixture inside of something else your dog LOVES like a homemade pill pocket (see the recipe above). 

Do you know that homemade dog treats reduce your dog’s costs? In this article, I walk you through how and why. 

Option 2

Again, you’ll want the pill in powder form. Either a mortar and pestle or a spoon and bowl will work. You’ll also need a liquid syringe. You can find these in the baby section of your grocery store (used for aspirin) or in your local feed store used to feed baby animals. Then this is what you’ll do:

1. Ground the pill into powder form

2. Dissolve the powder into a small amount of dog-friendly chicken broth (this means no spices or salt added). Honestly, this could be as little as 1/4 – 1/2 t. You want it in a liquid form. But not too much either to choke your dog.

3. Put the dissolved liquid medication mixture into the syringe

4. Open your dog’s mouth and squirt into the back of the mouth

5. Gently hold your dog’s head up, mouth closed, and rub the throat until there’s a good swallow

I used to do this method with my horses fairly frequently. You would not believe how stubborn a horse can be at times! 

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Option 3

This is exactly the same as option 2 except you’ll also add a bit of baby food. Basically, complete the first two steps of option 2. Then do the following:

3. Get a small jar of pure baby food (no salt, spices, or additives)

4. Mix the liquid dog medicine mixture with the baby food. It should still be a small amount. You don’t want to choke your dog. Additionally, it should be liquid enough to move out of the syringe. 

5. Again, gently hold your dog’s head up, mouth closed, and rub the throat until there’s a good swallow

What kind of baby food can my dog eat? 

Baby food is actually fine as a treat for your dog. Or in this case a medical necessity, according to Emergency Vet USA. However, make sure the baby food is just that food and has no additives, salt, or spices. Some types of baby foods you can try with your dog include:

  • Banana
  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Pumpkin
  • Sweet potato
  • Turkey

I’m pretty sure Henry would love any of these options much better than the open, take it, and here’s a kiss and cookie method he generally gets from me. 

What method worked for the dog that refused every way possible to take her antibiotic?

It was option 3. She actually enjoyed it and looked forward to her “treat”.

What other tricks can I use for getting my dog to take pills?

I always think it has a lot to do with how you present it. For example, if you say “You HAVE to take your pill!” or even say “Pill time!” they feel your stress and resist. However, if you say, “Oh, yummy treat! Do you want a yummy treat?” You may very well get your dog begging for a pill that was hated. 

Henry is a great example of presentation counts. I had to stop giving him certain treats at night. His vet suggested presenting his food as a tasty treat. I was a bit skeptical. But I was quickly proven wrong. Each night I act as if I am going to eat his food and say “Yummy treats, Henry? Do you want a yummy treat?” His stubby tail wags and he gets excited.

You might think Henry is just food-driven. He’s actually mostly only interested in food if he thinks it’s human food. So, me acting as if I’m eating it, really does work for him. He stays healthy, gets a “cookie”, and I don’t feel bad for not giving him a bedtime treat. 

I've learned easy ways when a dog won't take pills. Thankfully, Henry has always taken his pills.
Henry licks up any leftover “cookie” pills.

What if I still can’t get my dog to take a pill?

Then I will say you have an extremely stubborn dog and Genius Records needs to be contacted. Seriously though, your dog is just being themselves. I remember I had to put eye ointment in Henry’s eye daily for 3 weeks. He’s a great dog. But after a dog attack, surgery, and stitches, he didn’t want to open his eye wide enough for me to put the ointment into it. Plus, I was really nervous about hurting him. What I did was call my vet in pure frustration. They said, “Don’t worry. Bring him in and we’ll put the ointment in for you.” They did that every day at no charge. That’s another reason why everyone needs a great vet! 

Do you know a great vet can keep your dog healthy and your budget in check? In this article, I walk you through the 6 budget benefits of a great vet. 

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Summary of your dog won’t take pills? Easy solutions revealed!

While it can be frustrating when your dog refuses to take a pill, there are always solutions. I like to think that I just have to outsmart my furry friend. Sometimes it’s a matter of overpowering the bitter pill taste. While other times, it’s a matter of changing the pill texture completely and changing the presentation. Once you discover how to give a dog a pill, you may have your pup begging for the next dose. 

dog won't take pills is now happily waiting to take his yummy treats and his human  parents are very happy

Do you have a dog who won’t take pills? What are your foolproof methods when a dog won’t take pills?


Categories Other Savings and Tips

About Terri Rodefer

Terri Rodefer is the founder of Tail Wag Wisdom, a blog focused on affordable pet care. She likes to say helping pet parents afford and love their animals even more, makes her tail wag. As a lifelong lover of all animals with a background in economics, biology, and marketing, allows Terri to bring a unique spin to pet care. 

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