Our dog used to have a terrible itching problem and we felt terrible that he was in constant discomfort. He was frequently rolling upside down on the floor and even in between blankets in the bed to get his itches scratched! Our vet suggested that we give him allergy pills but there was one problem: we had to figure out how to give pills to dogs successfully!
Getting Your Dog to Take Pills for Allergies
Pills, or oral medications, are the most popular way for dogs to receive allergy medications. They are available both over-the-counter and through a prescription written by an in-person or online veterinarian.
Pills are also one of the easiest ways to help your dog find relief for doggie allergies. If you’re lucky, your dog will allow you to pop the pill in their mouth, swallow, and go back to trying to chew the squeaker out of their favorite toy. But, we’ve given lots of pills to our dogs over the years and it’s just not that easy.
Dogs tend to spit out medication if they taste or feel something they don’t like in their mouths. Sometimes they even clench their jaws shut if they think you’re trying to give them something yucky.
Be careful when administering medication orally to dogs, as there is risk for bites and related infections.
We’ve personally used these 8 tips that really work when we were learning how to give pills to dogs.
Tip #1: Hide the Pill in Wet Dog or Wet Cat Food
If your dog is accustomed to crunchy dog food, try hiding the whole pill mixed in with wet dog food. Your dog might be so excited that you’re giving them something different than usual that they’ll lap the food up and swallow it before they realize you’ve hidden a pill in there. Our own dogs really get excited for wet cat food, so that’s something to try as well.
Be sure to only use a small amount of wet food to hide the pill. If your dog gets too full before getting to the food with the pill, they’ll stop eating and won’t get the medicine.
Also, if your dog tastes a bitter pill or identifies that something new is in their mouth, they may spit out the pill and quit eating the wet dog or cat food altogether. Be ready to try another method!
Tip #2: Hide the Pill in People-Food
Your dog may or may not be allowed to eat people-food on an occasional basis, but I don’t know of a dog that doesn’t love it. You may have strong feelings against not feeding your dog people-food, but it might be something to consider if nothing else works.
What has worked well for us is hiding the pill in the center of a piece of hot dog. It makes a perfect little pill holder and hot dogs tend to be something that an average American family has in their refrigerator. To do this, you just need to cut up or tear a hot dog into about 6 sections and insert the pill into one of the ends of the sections. Just toss the hot dog into the air for your dog to catch and they’ll typically swallow it before even chewing.
We’ve also done the exact same thing with small cubes of cheese. Think of foods that your dog tends to swallow whole and quickly and they’ll never know that you hid a pill inside.
Some people suggest peanut butter, but we have found that because dogs can’t swallow peanut butter whole, the dog will find the pill and spit it out while moving their tongue around.
Tip #3: Offer a Food Chaser
We use this tip frequently, in conjunction with Tip #2 above, because our dogs tend to get suspicious from time to time and start chewing food that they normally swallow whole. A food chaser is just another piece of people-food that does not have medicine in it, that you give directly after the food that has the pill in it.
Here’s how this works: Take two hot dog segments, but only put a pill in one of the segments. Toss the hot dog segment that has the pill into their mouth and while they are making a decision between chewing or swallowing, immediately offer the other hot hog segment from your hand.
The dog gets focused on the hot dog in front of them and they swallow what’s already in the back of their mouth. Offering the chaser immediately distracts them from any potential weird tastes and sensations in their mouth from the prior piece of hot dog. And if they chew this second piece, they won’t taste or feel a pill.
Tip #4: Cut the Pill into Smaller Pieces
Sometimes doggie allergy pills are too big to hide or for small pets to swallow. Using a pill splitter allows for you to make large pills smaller. Keep in mind that this can only be done with powder-based pills and should not be done with any type of gel-cap or time-released medications.
Using a pill splitter will increase the number of pill pieces that you’ll need to feed your dog, so this might mean more hot dog segments. You can make the hot dog segments smaller to accommodate a smaller pill. Just keep in mind that the smaller the human food piece is, the higher the chance your dog will taste the medication and spit it out.
Tip #5: Crush the Pill into a Powder
Crushing the pills into a powder using a pill crusher is also an option if your dog can’t be tricked into swallowing a pill. Mixing the powder into wet dog food, wet cat food, or human food is probably the only way this might work.
From our experience, our dogs just won’t take medicine this way because the bitterness of most pills is too overpowering for the flavor of the food. And, you want to be sure the dog gets the entire dosage of medicine, so you don’t want to mix it with too much food or they can get full without finishing. But, if you don’t mix it in with enough food, the bitter taste turns them off altogether.
It’s possible that this is a great choice for pills that don’t have a strong taste, but your dog’s taste buds will have to be the judge of that.
Tip #6: Change Your Pill Routine
If your dog needs allergy medicine every morning at 7:00 a.m. and they have figured out that you’re giving them some type of medication, they may avoid you around this time. Dogs are very smart animals and understand routines very well. This includes if you’re trying to be sneaky to give them allergy medications.
So, change up the routine so they don’t know exactly when the treat-stuffed-with-a-pill is coming. Instead of doing the hot dog trick mentioned above in the kitchen every day at 7:00 a.m., offer it in the back yard right after morning potty time. Or have it ready to go right before you jump in the shower in the bathroom. They’ll love the hot dog (with the hidden pill), but won’t associate it with the 7:00 a.m. kitchen routine.
Tip #7: Pretend You’re Offering Table Scraps
Similar to Tip #2: Hiding the Pill in People Food, except that this time, pretend that you’re sitting down at the table for a meal. Some dogs are better than others at not begging, but for those who are always under foot like ours, this is a great way to trick them into thinking they’re getting a treat from the table.
You can use the same hot dog trick I’ve mentioned throughout this article, but place everything on your kitchen table or where you normally eat. Then, start eating your morning toast and drinking your coffee. At some point, you can toss the hot dog with the pill inside to your dog to make them think they’re getting table scraps. I recommend having a food chaser ready too (Tip #3).
And if you have more than one dog, it’s a good idea to give each one something. Otherwise, they may get suspicious and you certainly don’t want any of them feeling left out or rejected!
Tip #8: Use a Pill-Hiding Treat Product
You may want to try using a dog treat or wrap that is specifically made for hiding pills. Greenies Pill Pockets were the first brand product I became aware of many years back. Now there are several other brands that offer a variety of sizes, flavors, and ingredients to accommodate a wide variety of needs.
Basically, these products come ready for you to insert a pill and pinch the top closed. These are convenient and do a good job of masking the flavor of bitter pills. Plus, you know how dogs like the sound of treat packages opening, so they’ll never know you’re trying to give them medication at the same time.
These 8 tips for administering allergy pills to dogs who don’t like the taste of them have worked many times over for our family over the years. But, what works great for one dog, might not work well for another one. We tend to rotate these methods so our dogs don’t get used to one particular routine, flavor or treat.
It’s best to keep trying different tips until you find those that work best for your family.
If you want to see if the allergy pills are making your pup feel better after you’ve successfully given the pills (but need to leave for work) consider using a dog camera to check in. Read Our Honest Furbo Dog Camera Review here.
Keep in mind that doggie allergies can be caused by so many things, so it’s best to get your in-person or online veterinarian’s approval for anything that you decide to try.
Do you have a tip that you want to share or have us write an article about?
If so, we’d love to hear it! Please post it below in the comments.