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Tips for giving pets medications

If your pet becomes ill or injured, there’s a good chance that your veterinarian will prescribe some sort of medication as part of your animal’s treatment and recovery. Types of veterinary meds vary widely, and may include antibiotics, opioid pain relievers, anti-inflammatory drugs, antiemetics (to control vomiting), corticosteroids, and antiparasitics, to name a few.

You may be asked to continue your pet’s treatment by administering meds at home, a prospect that can seem daunting to some pet owners. Here are a few tips to make the process easier—both for you and your pet.

Giving Oral Medications to Dogs

Here are tips for administering oral medication to your dog.

Hide the medication in food. Many dogs will fail to notice a pill if it’s concealed in some soft, aromatic food. Simply stir the med in until it’s completely hidden, and let your pup chow down. Ideal foods include peanut butter, liverwurst, and cream cheese. There are even brands of dog treats called “pill pockets” made just for this purpose.

Mix medications and treats. Some dogs are picky about what they eat and will spit out a pill, even when it’s hidden in mushy food. One solution is to get your pet excited about getting treats. After giving your animal 2 or 3 treats, slip the medication into the rotation. Your pet may be so excited at the prospect of getting a treat that they don’t notice they’re taking medicine.

Pill your dog. Vets and their staffs frequently administer pills to dogs so they’ve made the process very efficient. Simply hold your pet’s mouth open, and place the pill far back on the tongue, near the throat. Once you’ve deposited the pill, close your pet’s mouth and gently massage the throat area to assist swallowing. Offering a treat afterward can help your pet get over any discomfort.

Giving Oral Medications to Cats

Cats tend to be a tougher sell when it comes to administering meds. Still, there are a few tricks you can try that will simplify the process.

Add medications to smelly food. Like dogs, cats determine what substances are most appetizing by smell. Some cats may be so excited by the smell of aromatic moist cat food that they will chow down without noticing any hidden meds.

Place medication on their paws. Cats generally don’t like to feel dirty and will groom away any foreign substance you place on their fur. By applying meds to your cat’s paws, you’ll trigger their grooming response, and they’ll lick the meds away themselves. 

Try using a pill gun. For particularly resistant cats you can try purchasing a pill gun. Resembling a large plastic syringe, the device lets you administer pills to the back of your cat’s (or dog’s) mouth without risking a bite. A pill gun also helps ensure that your animal will safely swallow the med rather than spit it out.


Cecily Kellogg is a pet lover who definitely has crazy cat lady leanings. Her pets are all shelter rescues, including the dog, who is scared of the cats. She spent eight years working as a Veterinary Technician before becoming a writer. Today she writes all over the web, including here at Figo.

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