How to give your dog tablets

From worming pills to medication, discover how to give your dog tablets.

vet health checking labrador on floor 3

Whether it’s a regular worming tablet or pills for when they’re ill, it’s a relief to know that medicine is there for your dog when they need it. But how do you give pills to a dog?

It would be fantastic if it was as easy as popping a pill in your dog’s dinner for them to eat without realising, but many owners know that this just isn’t the case!

Here’s our guide to giving your dog tablets. 

Top tableting tips 

  • Read all the instructions before giving any medicine to your dog. If you’re not sure about how much to give, or how to prepare it, check with your vet.  Ask your vet whether you need to wear gloves when giving your dog their medicine. You may need to protect your skin when handling certain medications, like steroids. 
  • Try using food to hide medicine. It’s always worth trying this first as you won’t need to handle your dog’s mouth, which might be uncomfortable for you both. Use a treat your dog usually enjoys. You could try some sausage, cold meats, cubed cheese, squeezy cheese or cream, apple cubes or carrot slices. If your dog has any allergies or food intolerances, ask your vet which food might be best to use. Remember that there are some foods that are dangerous to dogs.
  • Check if your dog can eat with or after their medicine. Some medicine should be given when your dog’s stomach is empty, but one small treat should be fine if this helps to ensure that they receive the treatment. Ask your vet if you’re not sure. 
  • Check if you can crush it. Crushing tablets into a powder to mix with their normal food might help to hide it better but there are some medicines which must not be crushed or split and should be given whole. Ask your vet if you’re not sure. 
  • Try using a gadget like a pill-splitter or a crusher to help you prepare your dog's medicine correctly. Sometimes dogs need half or even a quarter of a tablet, which can be fiddly.
  • Watch your dog as you go, stopping right away if you see any signs that they are becoming uncomfortable, worried, or frustrated. An understanding of a dog’s body language is essential in helping you and your dog work together. 

How to train your dog to take tablets or pills straight into their mouth

Treats on hand

Before you get started, make sure you have plenty of tasty treats that your dog really enjoys but rarely gets. This way, they'll be extra special and exciting. 

Stroke the top of your dog's head 

Stroke your dog on the top of their head with one hand then give them a treat straight away from your other hand. Repeat this several times, gradually holding your hand still on top of their head before giving them a treat.

This teaches your dog that having their …

Add a cue 

Start to add in a word or phrase to signal what is about to happen. For example, if you say “tablet time” each time, your dog should soon associate these words with you giving them a treat directly into their mouth.

The order is important: you need …

Touch their snout

Just after saying “tablet time”, place your hand over the top of your dog’s snout with your thumb to one side of their snout and your fingers on the other, as if you’re gently holding a computer mouse.

The palm of your hand is likely to cover their eyes and/or …

Start to massage their mouth gently 

Say “tablet time”, then with your hand in position over their upper jaw, start to massage the outside of their mouth gently, just for a second, but don’t try to open their mouth at this point. Give them a treat straight away from your other hand, then throw another treat out …

Hold and massage together while giving a treat 

Say “tablet time”, then hold your dog’s top jaw and massage as before while bringing a treat towards their mouth.

As soon as they open their mouth, pop a treat just inside, rather than waiting for them to take it from you themselves. Immediately let go so they can …

Place the treat further back into your dog's mouth 

Next, start to place the treat a little further back in your dog’s mouth. This will help ensure they do eat the pill when you come to give it. The further back it is, the easier it will be to swallow. The hand across the top of your dog’s upper jaw helps to stabilise their …

Now for real

Once your dog has completed this training, you should be able to give them a pill hidden in a treat. Some dogs will even readily accept a pill on its own if they’re given a treat to chase and eat straight away afterwards.  

A top tip if …

Are there other ways to feed tablets to my dog? 

If your dog is showing signs of being very uncomfortable being handled around their head and mouth, for example, growling, squealing, snapping, biting or running away, talk to your vet. They can examine your dog’s mouth and refer you to a behaviourist for help if necessary.    

If your dog isn’t keen on being fed tablets directly into their mouth, you could try one of the following:  

Make it into a game

Take a few tasty treats/pieces of food – one containing the tablet or pill – and give them in quick succession, so your dog enjoys each one and doesn’t suspect any hidden pills. For example: 

  • Throw a treat out for your dog to chase and eat, then throw another out, and then another, and so on until they’ve eaten all the treats, including the one with the pill inside. 
  • If your dog is good at catching, toss them the treats, including the one with the pill hidden inside, one at a time.  
  • Ask your dog to do tricks they normally do for a treat, such as “sit” and “give your paw”. Use the treats, including the one with the pill hidden inside, to reward them. 

Try placing the pill straight into your dog’s food bowl, mixed into their normal meal

However, with their incredible sense of smell, your dog might detect the medicine and eat around it, or leave their food altogether. 

Try pretending to accidentally drop a piece of food with a tablet hidden inside

If your dog often waits to see if you’ll drop food when you’re eating, they might well rush to gobble it up without realising it has medicine inside. 

Consider talking to your vet

There might be an alternative medicine, such as in liquid form, which can be given by syringe instead and inserted into food.

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