How to Get a Dog to Take Pills

Dog pills (1)If your dog scarfs down pills hidden in a chunk of liver sausage consider yourself lucky! But, oftentimes, figuring out how to get a dog to take pills is no easy task since they are masters at separating the pills from food. True to any game, or trick, your dog has mastered, your frustrations are sure to rise as you see pill after pill left lying on the floor, while your dog enjoys the savory treat meant to disguise them.

The ol’ wrapping-the-pill-in-liver-sausage trick worked great for us at first, until our clever little 5 pound Maltese learned how to manipulate the situation to his advantage.

That is what prompted my desperation and I began wrapping his pills in just about every type of food imaginable. There was peanut butter, cream cheese, hot dogs, butter, multiple types of cheese, but each to no avail. I even got elaborate and tried cream cheese balls rolled in bacon bits and wrapped in ham. Each idea seemed to work for a day or two, but in the end he would sniff, turn his nose up, and sit patiently waiting for something better.

What I Was Doing Wrong

First of all, in large quantities, the above foods are horrible for your dog! Sure, if your dog is just taking pills short term you will probably do whatever it takes to get the job done. But, if your dog is taking pills long term, such as the case with my foster dog that has a heart condition, you certainly don’t want to be offering greasy, fatty foods.

While at the vet I asked for a better solution. As they politely listened to my story of woe in trying countless food options for hiding pills, I soon saw the look of disapproval cross their faces. So, what was the problem?

First, there was the issue of health concerns with regard to horrible food options, but second, it was explained to me how my dog was basically outsmarting me. Every time he turned his nose up at one food, I would give him another, and with each time I was teaching him that his refusal would only lead to an even better, tastier reward!

(This post contains affiliate links, which cost you nothing, but do help to support this site’s maintenance and fees. Read my full disclosure policy.)

How To Get Your Dog To Take Pills – A Solution!

  • Using food to hide pills is a great option, but steer toward healthy choices. Dogs that eat crunchy dog food usually consider soft dog food a treat. Purchasing multiple flavors will provide your dog with variety, or at least give you the ability to determine which one he likes best.  Roll the food into 3 small meatballs with the pill hidden in 1 of them. Give your dog a meatball without the pill first. Most dogs are very food driven and at this point will greedily be focusing on scarfing down the next one which, ‘oh my, what-do-ya-know!’, has the pill inside of it. Once the pill has been consumed, proceed to give the third meatball as a treat. I was skeptical this trickery would work for my dog, but it most certainly has. However, I had to alter the instructions a bit since the soft dog food wasn’t all that exciting to him. I boiled chicken breast and used a cheese grater to shave it into tiny pieces, which I then rolled the dog food meatballs in. Chicken is a perfectly healthy, fat-free, option, and has quickly become a treat he looks forward to. Since a whole chicken breast goes a long way, after grading it up, I put what I need in the refrigerator, and store the rest in the freezer to be readily accessible when needed.
  • If your dog’s pills can be crushed you are in luck! A fantastic, and healthy, option is to mix crushed pills in turkey, or beef flavored baby food. Dogs love it! And heating the baby food for about 5 seconds in the microwave will bring out the aroma to further entice your pup. One of the pills that my dog takes is particularly large for his tiny Maltese mouth, and prior to using this option it was nearly impossible for me to disguise this over-sized pill in food. Be sure to check the label to ensure there is no sodium (bad for dogs!) in the baby food brand you choose.
  • how to get a dog to take pillsMakers of commercial dog food have recognized the need for easy pill administration…enter, Greenies Pill Pockets! Since my foster dog requires 7 pills per day (ugh) Greenies have become my best friend. They are literally shaped like a pocket and all you need to do is drop the pills inside, smoosh the top shut, and feed to your unsuspecting pooch. Although Greenies come in 2 sizes and can be used for any size pill, I’m currently using them for my dog’s smallest pills. I’ve had luck with putting both pills inside the same Greenie, and he gobbles them up like there’s no tomorrow. Greenies Pill Pockets come in two sizes, either tablet size (small), or capsule size (large), and come in 3 different flavors – chicken, hickory smoke, or peanut butter. (Purchase Greenies Pill Pockets HERE.)
  • If your dog isn’t all that food driven, you may have to opt for opening the jaws of your dog (pry mouth open from the back of the jaw) and placing the pill at the far back of the throat. This option is by far the least desirable, and will definitely take some practice. If the pill isn’t placed back far enough your dog will easily be able to spit it right back out, which can be frustrating to say the least. But, with practice and patience it can eventually become routine for you and your dog. If you feel that your dog may bite, you may want to use the assistance of a pill dropper which is essentially just a stick that grips a pill on the end. That way your fingers don’t have to go inside your dog’s mouth. You can help your dog along by keeping his head tilted slightly upward while rubbing his throat until the pill is swallowed.
  • All pills are not created equal! Some are big, some are small, some have a strong odor, and some taste bitter, or just simply horrible! I suppose we can’t really blame our dogs for not wanting anything to do with them. But, on occasion there are medicines that come in different flavors. It is worth asking the vet if this may be the case with your dog’s pills.
  • You may have better luck hiding large or bitter tasting pills inside of an empty gel cap. These can be purchased at any pharmacy. They can be made more desirable to your dog by coating them with a thin layer of butter, which will also make them slippery and easy to swallow. They can also help to hide the smell of a pill your dog may not like.

A Few Tips To Keep In Mind

  • Don’t stand over your dog, nervously clenching your teeth for fear he may not swallow his pill. Your dog will sense something is up, and gone will be your chance for success. Dogs sense our emotions so it is important to stay relaxed.
  • If your dog has already related taking pills as a bad experience, be discreet and don’t let him see, or hear, you getting the pills ready.
  • Where applicable, heat food prior to mixing or hiding pills in it. Heated food has a stronger aroma, and greater potential for enticing your scent driven dog.
  • When hiding pills in food, do not touch the food with the same hand previously used to touch the pills. Some dogs will smell the scent of the pills on the food and will refuse to eat it.
  • Pills disguised in food should be given to your dog at a time of day when he is hungry!

How to get a dog to take pills



  1. Mate June 22, 2016 Reply
  • CarolAuthor June 22, 2016 Reply
  • Rachel July 10, 2016 Reply
    • CarolAuthor July 10, 2016 Reply
  • Pam July 7, 2018 Reply
    • CarolAuthor July 9, 2018 Reply

    Add a Comment

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *