Five ways to get medication into your difficult dog


Dog taking medicine.

If you have ever struggled to get your dog to take their medicine (and I can bet this includes most dog owners!) keep reading for our top hints and tips.

2022 has been a tough year for Leo due to struggles with his health and reactivity. His wellbeing has had to be my focus so the business has taken a bit of a back seat.

In February he started crying and yelping for no obvious reason. He had initially cracked a claw and we thought that it was the cause of his pain so when it had healed and he was still unhappy it prompted a vet check.

They couldn't find anything wrong so we were referred to an orthopaedic vet who did X-rays under sedation as he thought Leo may have a hip problem but this revealed a much worse issue. 

Leo has a congenital spinal deformity where an extra piece of bone is attached to his spine and is pressing down on the spinal cord. He was born with it so must have been coping with pain all his life.

A neurological specialist vet then did an MRI under general anaesthetic. I can honestly say I've never been so stressed. I sat outside the animal hospital for 7 hours unable to even consider leaving poor Leo there overnight so as soon as he was able to walk  after the procedure we came home.

Sadly the MRI revealed another issue. He has bulging disc in his back exactly under the bony deformity which in effect causes his spinal cord to be pinched.

It certainly explains his pain and also his reactivity!

Anyway after months of medication, physio and hydrotherapy he is almost back to being his normal bouncy self. We've had a few scares along the way but at the moment he is pain free and back to joining me in the sewing workshop.

Restricting his exercise and getting him to swallow tablets have been huge challenges. So we have been playing games, making scent trails and hiding treats and toys for him to find around the garden and house.

I've also had to become an expert in the ways to get your dog to take medicine!

5 ways to get medicine into your difficult dog.

1. Do what the vets do.
  • Settle your dog down before you try giving them the tablet. This task will be much trickier if they are over-excited.
  • Make sure you take the pill out of any packets before you attempt to give it them, this will speed up the process.
  • Closing their mouth and massaging their throat will help them swallow the tablet and stop them from spitting it out.
How to do it.
  • Either restrain your pet yourself or get an ‘assistant’ to help
  • Quietly but confidently take hold of your pets upper jaw and gently tilt your pet’s nose in the air.
  • Once looking up at the ceiling you will might see that the lower jaw is slightly open. At this point there are 2 options:
  • With the fingers of the hand holding upper jaw open you can slide them just behind the canines and this will usually cause them to open their mouth, pressure on the palate will help keep it open. Then with your other hand, put the pill as far into the mouth as you can.
  • Or, you can use the free hand (with the pill in it) to place a finger into the crack between the teeth and pull the lower jaw down, then roll you hand further into the mouth and push the pill in as far as you can.
  • Quickly close the jaw and gently rub their throat.
The trick of this is that you are trying to get the tablet over the ‘hump’ at the back of the tongue, once there they will swallow the pill. If they haven’t swallowed, you can squirt a small amount of water into the corner of their mouth with a syringe to encourage them to gulp.

This is the vet recommended way to give pills but we never quite managed this with Leo as he hates being restrained and is very reactive. He’s also very nervous so is easily upset  

This method became overly distressing for him and also for me as I ended up trying to wrestle with a 35kg “kangaroo” every morning. I got scratched and bruised and he became so anxious that we gave up and resorted to trying the other ideas below.

Vet giving corgi some medicine


2. Play a game of catch.

You can do this with the pills straight from the bottle or you may have more success if you wrap them in something tasty.

Take a handful of treats and start dropping them by your dog's nose encouraging them to catch each one. During the game you substitute one of the treats for a pill, wrapped or unwrapped followed by a few more treats. You can make it more of a game by throwing from a distance if your dog is an expert catcher.

Sadly Leo got wise to this fairly quickly and began to spit out every treat he caught. He  would then inspect it before eating it which led to him fishing out all the pills. 

Dog catching a treat


3. Wrap the pills in tasty stuff.

The possibilities are very varied here depending on what your dog likes as a treat. We tried everything under the sun to tempt Leo. Sometimes the attempts worked and other times he spat the pills straight out. Her also became suspicious of everything we fed him and started spitting everything out just to check if we had included pills! He drove me mad!

We tried cheese, both cheddar and cream cheese. We experimented with meat from fresh cooked liver to sliced ham, roast beef, chicken, spam and corned beef from a tin and a packet. These worked for a while but this picky dog would only eat fresh corned beef from the Co-op. The Waitrose, Tesco and Sainsburys corned beef just didn't pass the taste test! Even dog safe peanut butter failed to entice him!

I even tried hiding pills under the butter on his corner of toast each morning but he just licked the butter off and spat the pills out.


Dog eating a pill wrapped in meat


4. Pill Pockets.

You can buy commercially prepared tiny pouches to put pills inside which act as a wrapper for the pill. They are tasty treats that disguise the smell and taste of the tablets and can be molded around the pill. They cost approximately £7 for 30 and there are lots of brands on the market to try out. 

These gave us a temporary solution. For dogs having one or two pills a day they could be a great help, they are expensive though.

Leo was having to take 9 tablets a day at the start of his treatment so this would have cost us around £70 a month. 

Pill pockets to help dogs eat their tablets.

5. Hide the tablets in their dinner.

Hiding medication in their food is a great trick unless your dog is able to sniff out the tablets, separate them and leave them behind. We resorted to wrapping the pills in tasty stuff first and this did the trick. We tried grated cheese, JR pate, Spam and corned beef.

This has proved the most effective way for us to get Leo to take his medicine. Luckily he just has two tablets daily and one dose of liquid medicine.

To get the liquid Metacam into Leo we either squirt it onto his food or melt a tiny bit of butter in a dish and add his medicine to it. If we use the butter he licks the dish clean in seconds. Generally this is followed by his breakfast with the two pills wrapped in grated cheddar cheese which turns them into tiny balls. Grating the cheese finely means you can form it into balls easily around the pills and you don't need to use very much.

French bulldog with a huge pile of biscuits.

Fingers crossed Leo will continue to tolerate taking his medicine this way as we have exhausted all other ways of hiding the pills. But if he does stop eating the cheese balls we can always go back to some of the other ideas again and rotate the methods to stop him getting wise to our tricks.

I hope reading about our failures and ultimate successes will help you if you are struggling to get pills into your dog.


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