Written by Dr. Phil Abbott and Dr. Angie Ahlstrom

There will be times that you need to give your dog or cat medications. This can be a difficult task, especially if you’ve never had to do it before. Here are a few tips:

Pills and Capsules

1. Hide the medication in a treat—the easiest method, and the one that your pet will likely enjoy the most! Use peanut butter, canned food, or cheese to hide your pet’s pills. There are even dog and cat treats specially made for hiding medications. Make sure to have a few plain pieces of the treat so you can sneak the “loaded” ones in without your pet noticing. If your dog or cat has a food sensitivity, ask for special canned prescription food to prevent allergy flare ups.

2. Mix the medications into your pet’s regular meal. This can be tricky as some medications are difficult to hide in dry food and have a very unpleasant taste when broken open. Antibiotic capsules are the worst offenders. Make sure your pet eats the entire meal; they can be sneaky about leaving the pills behind.

3. Pill your dog or cat directly. This can become necessary in animals who aren’t eating or are too smart/suspicious of the previous methods. Follow these steps for best pilling results:

  • Kneel beside your dog or cat—on the right side if you are right handed
  • Hold the pill between your thumb and index finger of your right hand
  • Using your left hand, reach over the top of your dog’s nose and squeeze your thumb and middle finger between the upper and lower teeth. Your thumb should be on one side of your dog’s mouth and your middle finger on the other side. Try to stay behind the canine teeth (the long, pointy teeth near the front of the mouth).
  • Tilt your dog’s head up and pull down on the front of the lower jaw with your right hand
  • Quickly place the pill as far back on the tongue as possible
  • Close your dog’s mouth, keeping the head tilted back, and stroke the throat to encourage your dog to swallow
  • Watch closely for a few minutes as some dogs will hold the pill in their mouths and then spit it out
  • The same general method applies for cats and small dogs. The palm of your left hand will be resting on the top of their head. Use the middle finger of the right hand to pull down the lower jaw.

 Liquid Medications

1. Give liquid medications directly to your pet. These medications are measured out exactly; placing them on food can result in loss of medication as well as food aversion if the liquid is not palatable.

2. Place the tip of the syringe towards the back teeth (molars) and give the medication slowly. If your pet requires a large quantity, be sure to allow him/her to swallow frequently or they will start to spit it out.

General Medication Instructions

  • With all medications, make sure to read the label closely and ask your veterinary team any questions you may have.
  • Be sure to give all medications as directed. Certain medications must be given on an empty stomach while antibiotics and pain relievers work best when given with food.
  • Be sure to refrigerate necessary medications or they will not be effective.
  • Store medications out of your pet’s reach. Flavored medications may taste like treats, but they can be dangerous if your pet gets too much.

Remember—nothing is worth being bitten. If giving your pet medications proves too difficult, talk to your veterinarian about other options. Certain pills can be made into liquids; pets can be brought to the clinic for medicating; some medications for cats can be given as injections rather than oral medications. We want to work with you, as a team, to keep your pets healthy.

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