How to Give Medications to Dogs
Don’t give your dog any medication until you have spoken to your veterinarian to make sure it is the right medicine for the dog and the circumstances. You should also ask for instructions on how to give the drug and the correct dosage for your dog.
Pills, Capsules and Tablets
To give a dog a pill, slip your thumb into the space behind one of the canine teeth and press upward on the roof of the mouth. As the mouth begins to open, press down on the lower jaw with the opposite thumb. Alternatively, press in on both lips from above the muzzle. As the skin pushes in behind the canines, the dog will open her mouth.
Insert the pill well to the back of the tongue in the middle of the mouth. If you place the pill too far forward or to the side of the tongue, the dog will spit it out. Close the dog’s mouth and massage or rub her throat until she swallows. If the dog licks her nose, the pill has been swallowed. Blowing briefly into the dog’s nose may also cause her to quickly swallow the pill. You can also give her a syringe full of water to make sure she swallows, or give the dog a small treat after the pill goes down.
Do not break the pill up into a powder. Powders have an unpleasant taste that dogs don’t accept well. Some pills also have a protective coating that is important for the delayed release of the medication, and crushing the pill will destroy the coating.
Some pills can be given in food. This can be done by making up small “meatballs” of dog food. Give the dog one or two undoctored meatballs, then one with the pill pushed deep into the center. Follow up with an undoctored one so the dog will continue to take the treats even if she gets a small taste of the medicine.
There are also commercial treats available made specfically for administering medication that are sticky enough to make it difficult for the dog to extract a pill while eating the treat. They are soft so they mold easily around the pill. Pill Pockets and Flavor Doh are two examples.
Always check with your veterinarian before giving any pills with food.
Liquid medicines, including electrolytes and water solutions, are administered into the cheek pouch between the molars and the cheek. A medicine bottle, eyedropper, or plastic syringe without the needle can be used to dispense the liquid.
Pinch the dog’s lips together. Insert the end of the dispenser into the cheek pouch and seal the lips with your fingers. Tilt the dog’s chin upward and slowly dispense the liquid. The dog will swallow automatically. If you must give the dog a large quantity of liquid, you will need to pause periodically and give her time to swallow. Do not try to push a full syringe of liquid quickly down the dog’s throat!
Injecting any foreign substance into the body always carries with it the danger of causing an acute allergic or anaphylactic reaction. Treating anaphylactic shock requires immediate intravenous adrenaline and oxygen. This is one reason why it is best to have your veterinarian give injections. As a precaution, do not administer a drug by injection to a dog who has had any sort of past history of an allergic reaction (such as hives) to that drug.
If it becomes necessary to give injections at home (for example, if the dog is diabetic), have your veterinarian demonstrate the procedure. Some injections are given under the skin (subcutaneous) and others into the muscle (intramuscular). Directions that come with the product will indicate the correct route of injection.
The injection itself usually is not painful, although intramuscular injections may hurt somewhat as the medicine is injected. Dogs should be restrained. Having an assistant is helpful.
Begin by drawing the medicine up into the syringe. If there is an air bubble inside, flick the syringe to get the bubble to the top. Then point the needle toward the ceiling or into a sink and press the plunger to expel all air from the syringe and needle. Make sure the correct amount is still in the syringe after the air bubble is expelled. Select the injection site, part the hair, and cleanse the dog’s skin with cotton soaked in alcohol.