Home > Resource Articles > Animal Behavior Blogs > 6 Easy Tips for Getting Pets To Take Their Medicine

6 Easy Tips for Getting Pets To Take Their Medicine

It often seems like dogs will eat just about any food you drop on the floor or leave unattended, except when it comes to their medication. Getting pets to take their pills can be a struggle for any pet owner. Whether it's a tablet, pill, or liquid, dogs and cats seem adverse to taking their medicine. Missing doses and not sticking to a consistent schedule can often lead to underperforming results and longer recovery periods, leaving you and your pet feeling exhausted. Your pet needs their medicine to get better, and you don’t need to fight them every day. Let's improve both you and your pet's experience with these sure-fire ways to get your pet to take their medicine.

#1: Mix Medication and Meal Time
Did you know that a dog’s sense of smell is over 10,000 times stronger than a human’s? It’s this powerful sense of smell that animals use to identify what is and isn’t food. Sadly, most medication has a strong chemical smell that most animals know to avoid ingesting. One way to overcome this problem is to hide the medication in strong smelling food or wet food. Most scents can not travel very well underwater or when covered in liquid, making it much harder for your pet to detect. If you don't have any wet food, using chicken or beef broth can work as a substitute that most dogs will love, just make sure not to feed them too much.

#2: What You Don’t Know Can Help You
A spoonful of sugar might help the medicine go down for your children; however, it can be harmful to your pets. Sometimes medication has a strong bitter taste that animals don't like, causing them to eat around the pill or cough it back up. If your dog or cat refuses to take their medicine, try hiding it inside a treat pocket. Some treats are specifically shaped with a hollow space inside for you to hide medication in, such as Greenies Pill Pockets. If your pet still refuses to take their medicine, try feeding them some empty treats first, before adding the pills to a treat. This will help train them to enjoy a delicious treat, and they might gobble it down before even realizing there's a pill hiding inside.

#3: It’s Treat Time
If your pet is still picky, then it might be time to trick them into taking their medicine. Make a game out of it and try tossing some treats into the air for your dog to catch. After a few successful catches, slip in a pill and toss the treat. There's a good chance your dog will be so excited to play that they don’t even notice what they just swallowed.

Some other helpful strategies include tiring your dog out first with a walk or playtime. Once they are exhausted, they are less likely to carefully observe their food, and more likely to just dive right in. If you have multiple dogs, make it a competition. Toss some treats between them, or put their food bowls close together. They will naturally compete to eat their food before the other dog can get their paws on their dinner, and may accidentally eat the medicine without noticing in their rush.

If your pet isn't a picky eater, sometimes you can get away with simply mixing the medication in with the treats, or by mixing it with a common food item like peanut butter. Be sure to check our selection of dog treats and cat treats to find your pet’s favorite snack.

#4: Keep It Secret
Dogs and cats are smarter than we give them credit for. If they see you preparing their medication, they are more likely to resist eating it. Don’t let them know what's coming next by preparing their medicated food away from them. You may need to use treats or their favorite toy to distract them and get them to look the other way. One trick is to have the medicine nearby, and “accidentally” knock it on the floor. Most dogs will zoom right in to snatch any morsel of “people food” they can get, and will mistakenly devour the pill thinking it's a free snack. It might help to also drop a few pieces of dog food or to roll up the pills in something safe for your pup to eat, like a bit of turkey or chicken.

#5: Paws for Effect
Liquid or powdered medication can be trickier to get your pets to take. If your pet refuses to eat food that has these medications mixed in, then it might be time for an even sneakier strategy. For dogs, try mixing the liquid or powdered medicine with peanut butter and putting it on their paws. Dogs love peanut butter and hate having something stuck to their paws, so they will instinctively try to clean it off with their tongue.

Cats, on the other hand, can be a bit trickier to work with. While they are known for licking themselves, they do not like peanut butter and do not react well to having things placed on them. Instead, try to mix the medication in with some milk or tuna water (the water you drain out from a can of tuna or canned seafood). Cats love these drinks, and their strong scent can help to mask the medication.

#6: Flavored Treats
Some medicine comes pre-flavored in a variety of selections your pets will love such as chicken or beef. Check to see if flavored options are available, and you might have an easy way of making your pet think that taking their pills is treat time!