How to Administer Medication to Your Pet

Giving a pet his medication can sometimes feel like herding cats, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are some tips to ensure your pet is getting the medication he needs without any accompanying stress or trauma (for either of you!).


Make it taste good

“Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down in the most delightful way,” sang Mary Poppins, and that can apply to your pet’s medicine, too.

Of course, we’re not talking about an actual spoonful of sugar, but, when it comes to medicating pets, especially those who are food-motivated, food is your friend. When appropriate (ask us!), use high-reward treats to disguise your pet’s pills, like peanut butter, cream cheese, canned spreadable cheese, deli meats, tuna flakes, or yogurt. There are also pill pockets—yummy treats designed specifically to place a pill inside—for both dogs and cats. And, compounding pharmacies can even create flavored medicated tablets, which many pets enjoy as much as treats.

Some medications can be formulated in a liquid or powder form. And, while liquids and powders might be easier to administer than pills, some pets might still put up a fight. Compounding pharmacies can formulate liquid medications with a variety of flavors (think chicken, beef, or fish). These can be given directly into your pet’s mouth with a syringe, or you can mix the liquid medication into some canned pet food.

Powdered medications can also be sprinkled on a pet’s food.

If your pet is prescribed a liquid or powder medication and we have instructed you to mix a particular amount into her food, be sure she consumes all of the food with the medication so she receives the proper dosage each time.

If you get your pet’s prescription filled at a human pharmacy, be sure the pharmacist knows that the medication is for an animal. Some common medications can be compounded with flavors to improve taste and could include ingredients that are toxic to dogs or cats. For example, a human pharmacy might add xylitol to liquid gabapentin as a sweetener. Xylitol won’t hurt humans, but it could be dangerous for your dog.  (remember this when selecting items like peanut butter too)


Make it quick

Some pets, especially cats, are finicky eaters and will eat around the medication. If your pet has caught on to your attempts at hiding his medicine in food and treats, and he won’t fall for your sneaky tricks anymore, you might find that taking the quick and direct route works best.

To pill your pet directly, you can use your fingers or a pill popper, which can be purchased from UVH. When your pet is prescribed a pill medication, we will show you how to administer the pill while you’re in our office. If you need a refresher, call our office or check out one of the many how-to videos online at our youtube page.


To pill your pet:

  1. Our pets can sense when we feel stress, so try to remain calm and confident throughout interaction.
  2. Have the medication ready to go, either within reach or already in your hand, when you approach your pet.
  3. Tip your pet’s head back so his nose is pointing straight up in the air.
  4. Using your fingers or a pill gun, place the pill far back on your pet’s tongue, which will make it easier for him to swallow and he’ll be less likely to spit it out.
  5. Massage your pet’s throat a bit to help him swallow the pill.
  6. Reward your pet with praise, love, and a treat (if medically appropriate).



Ask us for help. We’re always available to help you take the best care of your pet.

Avoid forcing your pet to accept the medication, which could be traumatic to the pet and cause him to fight you even more the next time.

Do not remove your pet from a hiding spot or interrupt eating, grooming, or napping in order to give him his medication.

Always reward your pet after he’s taken his medication.

Need help administering your pet’s medication? Call us at 318-797-5522.