I have a senior dog who takes some medication to help manage her arthritis. While she is a good dog and is cooperative with everyone, she is not thrilled about taking pills.
And, as she’s gotten older, she’s gotten pickier with her food. Gone are the days when she was pretty much a canine vacuum cleaner.
These two things combined mean that I’ve had to get creative with her daily pills. After a lot of trial and error, I’ve found a method that she’s (almost always) receptive to, and doesn’t cost me an arm and a leg. This blog post is for other owners of looking for ideas on how to administer medicine, with advice for picky pups towards the end.
Note: this post may contain affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something, we may earn a commission. Thanks for reading!
#1: Putting It On Top of Your Dog’s Kibble
This method is not for picky eaters, but this is where we started our journey.
If you have a dog that loves to eat, you can typically get away with just putting your dog’s pills on top of their food. Of course, this assumes that you need to give the pills during mealtime, which isn’t always the case.
You can help your pup’s teeth out by breaking up larger pill tablets into smaller pieces.
Pros: cheap and doesn’t take much time.
Cons: doesn’t work for picky eaters, and, if your dog doesn’t finish their food, it can be hard to tell if they ate the pill or not.
#2: Coating It With Something Tasty (Before Adding to Food)
After the previous method stopped working, I was able to still get our pup to take her medicine if I put something good smelling (and good tasting) on the pills.
There are a bunch of different options here, including:
- Dabbing peanut butter on the pill, then adding it on top of the food
- Coating the pill in yogurt before adding it to the top of the food
- If you do a combination of wet and dry food, coat the pill in the wet food’s sauce before adding it to your dog’s meal
You’ll quickly notice a pattern in this blog post–this method worked for us for a while (until it didn’t). The idea here is much like dog food toppers. If you add something extra appetizing to the pill, that’s usually enough to get them started eating.
Pros: still pretty inexpensive, and not too time-consuming.
Cons: again, if your dog doesn’t finish all of their food, it can be hard to tell if they ate the pill or not. This is especially true with yogurt or other food toppers, as it’s hard to tell what’s a pill and what’s kibble.
#3: Treat Toss Method
By the time I learned about this trick, my dog was already too picky to make it work. But this might work for your pet!
If your dog loves treats, you can try tossing a few treats their way. Do so in relatively quick succession, one after the other. You can use something like these treats so your dog’s caloric intake isn’t too high.
After tossing 2 or 3 treats their way, toss the pill as though it’s another treat. Then toss another actual treat.
The idea here is that you build up expectation that they will receive a bunch of treats. Then when the pill arrives, they eat it as though it were a treat, and look forward to the next treat.
You definitely need a bit of a poker face for this one, so your dog doesn’t suspect anything.
Pros: no special food preparation is required, and it makes pill time fun for your dog.
Cons: as with all dog treats, you need to make sure you aren’t overdoing it and causing weight gain. And, this doesn’t work if your dog is older or otherwise not as good at catching treats.
#4: Pill Pockets
Pill Pockets are a dog treat with a hole in the middle that allows you to put a pill inside, and disguise it as a tasty treat. They come in a variety of sizes and flavors.
My dog loved these for several months, until one day, she decided she didn’t.
But if your dog isn’t a picky eater, these are great. They are easy to use and travel well. You can get them from Amazon, at your vet’s office, and at pet stores.
Pros: easy to use, travels well, and is pretty effective.
Cons: cost, especially if your dog takes multiple pills a day.
#5: Stuff the Pill Inside (Healthy) Leftovers
Many pet parents don’t want to give their dog “human food”, and with good reason. This is not an option for all dogs, especially those that are prone to begging, or stealing food.
And while most dog owners are already aware of which foods they should not give a dog, I’m mentioning it again just to be safe. There are many foods that your dog absolutely cannot eat (such as chocolate or grapes), and there are also many foods that your dog should not eat (such as sweets, or other overly fatty or salty foods).
But if you have something that your dog can eat, such as meatballs, you can stuff a pill inside and your dog will almost certainly gobble it down.
Pros: almost a 100% success rate because our dog knows the food is “special”.
Cons: inconsistent availability of dog-friendly leftovers and this method doesn’t travel well.
#6: Tortillas and Peanut Butter
This is my dog’s favorite. It’s easy, it’s cheap, and you can find the ingredients anywhere. It’s also a positive experience for her, and she now expects her peanut butter “treat” at 4pm.
How does it work?
- Buy a pack of corn tortillas, and a jar of peanut butter.
- Rip roughly 1/3 of a corn tortilla off. You can use a smaller or bigger piece depending on the size of the pills, and the size of your dog.
- Use a knife to get a glob of peanut butter. Use enough to obscure the pill, maybe 1 tablespoon. Again, this can be adjusted to your dog’s size, and the amount of pills.
- Fold the tortilla so it’s a little peanut-butter-and-pill sandwich.
- Give it to your dog!
This is also good for dogs that don’t always finish their entire bowl of food. You no longer have to figure out whether the pill is still in the bowl, because you’re giving the pill as a separate treat. You can also do this with other food instead of tortillas, such as a cracker (assuming it’s not too salty).
The big thing to look out for with this method is weight gain, as peanut butter is pretty high in calories. However, if your dog is so picky that none of the other options work, it’s likely that they’re losing weight due to being picky. This is definitely the case for our dog, so the extra peanut butter treat doesn’t cause any weight issues.
Pros: cheap, fairly easy to setup, and popular with my picky dog.
Cons: extra calories for your dog that can cause unwanted weight gain. This method also does require a little bit of cleanup (washing the knife afterwards).
I hope this post has been helpful for you and your pup, however picky they may be. Do you have other methods that have worked for you? If so, share them in the comments!