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Tips and tricks on how to give your dog a tablet

Whether it’s parasite prevention, pain control or behavioural medications, at some stage we are all going to have to give medication to our dogs – that can be a challenge even for the best of us!

Whilst some dogs will happily take a tablet from your hand, or hidden in their dinner, others will turn up their noses and eat everything but their tablet. Some dogs will even appear to have swallowed their tablet but then spit it out when your back is turned!

Before we get to our helpful hints and tips, here’s a quick refresher on the basics.

How to give a tablet to your dog

Firstly, remember that your dog is attuned to your behaviour, so acting calm and confident is important.

Gently open your dog’s mouth by holding one hand above their muzzle. Tilt their nose upwards and place the tablet toward the back of the mouth, then close their mouth and gently rub or blow on their nose.

Your dog licking their nose means the tablet has most likely been successfully swallowed, but always pay attention to make sure they don’t spit it out later! As always, wash your hands after handling your pet and any medication.

Some dogs may need time, patience and reassurance before they are comfortable with the process. You may need to get your dog used to each step one by one, taking it slowly and only proceeding to the next step when they are comfortable and happy. Afterwards, give your dog a reward, such as a treat or cuddles, so they associate being given a tablet with something positive.

If you’re worried about giving medication to your dog, ask if your vet or vet nurse can give you a demonstration. There are also videos available online demonstrating how to safely give a tablet to a dog.

Play hide and seek with treats

If your dog won’t happily eat medication hidden in their food then you could try hiding the tablet in a more desirable treat, such as a spoon of peanut butter, plain yoghurt or canned dog food. Some owners have also had success using a small piece of processed cheese slice wrapped around a tablet.

You can offer a treat without any tablet first and while your dog is enjoying that, quickly offer the next treat with the tablet hidden in it. Then follow up with one more treat. Act happy and excited to be sharing treats and your dog may never know that there was a tablet in their treat!

Always make sure any treat you use is safe for your dog by checking with your vet first. Never give chocolate or any food treat containing Xylitol (an artificial sweetener), as it is toxic to dogs, and avoid fatty foods like ham.

What to do if you encounter difficulties when giving your dog a tablet

If you are encountering difficulties, you may be able to crush the tablet up and mix it with your dog’s food (check with your vet first, as not all tablets can be crushed or capsules opened), or you could try another type of treat (e.g. warm roast chicken) or feeding your dog treats when they are hungrier (e.g. before meals).

A pet piller may be a good investment, with this nifty little device helping to deposit the tablet at the back of your dog’s mouth. However, always be careful when using a piller, and be sure to follow the instructions carefully.

Choosing the right formulation for your pet

Many veterinary medications are now available in different formulations (including injectables given by your vet, or liquid forms) so please discuss this with your vet if you aren’t confident in giving your dog a tablet. For example, parasite preventatives come in a range of options, including palatable flavoured chews and spot-on liquid that is applied to the back of your dog’s neck.

What to do if these tips and tricks don’t work?

If you’ve tried everything and still can’t get your dog to take their medication then speak to your veterinarian. They want your pet to be healthy too and it’s possible they, or a veterinary nurse can help by giving your pet their medicine at the clinic.

Your veterinarian may also be able to have your dog’s medication specially formulated (at additional cost) as a flavoured liquid or paste by using a compounding pharmacy. Some medications can even be formulated as a transdermal cream or gel which you can easily apply to your pet’s skin.

Practice makes perfect

Ensuring your dog takes their medication may seem daunting at first, but with a little planning and some ingenuity, the process will become straightforward over time. Following these easy tips and tricks on how to medicate your dog can help you and your pet stay relaxed and calm throughout the process.

Veterinary care is essential for your pet and one way of managing the cost of eligible accidental injuries and illness is to have Pet Insurance, which can help you with some of the unexpected expenses of pet ownership. If you’re with RSPCA Pet Insurance, a portion of first-year premiums will go towards supporting the great work of the RSPCA.

Dr Catherine Tiplady bio image

Dr Catherine Tiplady

Dr Catherine Tiplady studied veterinary science at the University of Queensland. After graduation, Dr Catherine worked in veterinary practice whilst undertaking postgraduate research in Animal Welfare, gaining additional degrees in Bachelor of Applied Science (Animal Studies) (Hons 1) and a PhD. Dr Catherine has published widely in peer reviewed scientific journals and has also authored a book, ‘Animal Abuse: Helping Animals and People’. Currently working in small animal practice, Dr Catherine also has her own business performing gentle in-home pet euthanasia and provides veterinary care and desexing services for animal welfare charities. Dr Catherine brings her passion for animal welfare, love of writing and scientific training together to contribute quality content to RSPCA Pet Insurance’s Pet Care blog.