How to Give a Dog Pills: 23 Sneaky Treat Ideas
Updated: June 13th, 2022
Dogs who hate pills may just need a tricksy treat! Sneaky ideas for treats to hide pills from experts: our readers.
If you’ve got a dog who hates to take pills — but you HAVE to give them anyway … this article is for you, dear fellow dog lover. I’ve got dozens of tips for you, collected from readers of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide.
23 Sneaky Treat Ideas That (Almost) Never Fail Your Dog
1. Braunschweiger, Also Known as Liverwurst or Liver Paste
2. Chicken or Turkey Hearts
Dogs. Love. Chicken. Hearts.
3. Cream Cheese
And If Those Don’t Work…
- little mozzarella balls
- peanut butter
- string cheese
- any goat’s milk cheese
- banana slices/chunks
- coconut oil (makes the pill/supplement super slippery and dogs love the taste)
- green-lipped mussels
- hard-boiled egg
- honey (not for puppies, though)
- hot dog chunks
- deli meat, like chicken, beef, turkey, or ham — as long as it doesn’t have nitrites it’s a nice easy way to wrap pills
- meatballs, homemade or frozen
- pitted dates have a natural interior pocket and dogs love them!
- plain Greek yogurt is thick and makes a lovely treat
- boiled potatoes (cooled, of course)
- mashed potatoes (cooled, of course)
- pumpkin puree (especially good if your dog needs the pumpkin to firm up their poop)
- raspberries have a natural pocket for pills
- turkey or chicken gizzards, similar to hearts, they have a natural “pocket”
- wet canned cat food
- marshmallows (thanks, Laura!)
- empty gelatin capsules (see below) for the tip!
What About Sugar in Some of Those Treats?
I used to freak out about every little drop of sugar or carbs my dogs ate, worrying that every little bite would feed cancer, not them. It’s true, cancer prefers sugar to any other food, and gobbles it up.
Ten years ago the thought of using a marshmallow or date as a pill pocket would have horrified me.
These days, I’m more relaxed. I have realized that I will never, ever, ever, ever get anything about dog cancer “right,” or “perfect.” There are always tradeoffs.
So, if my dog would ONLY take good-for-them supplements and medications hidden in marshmallows … I would make sure I always had marshmallows on hand.
More Tips for Tricking Your Dog Into Taking Pills
You can choose the perfect treat to trick your dog, but that might be enough. Some dogs are so skeptical they will turn up their noses at even the most delicious liverwurst!
(I honestly think sometimes they just feel so hurt. They thought they were getting something lovely, but there was something nasty inside. How could you??)
Here are some strategies to employ to see if you can help your dog take those darn pills.
Treat – Trick – Treat
What?!? It’s Your Dinner!
When Your Dog Engages in Highway Robbery
Big Dog, Big Pills, or Several at Once?
Give Treats Every Day at the Same Time
Encapsulate Bitter Pills and Liquids
If you have an especially bitter pill or liquid medication and your dog absolutely HATES the taste, it can be hard to trick him into taking it. That sensitive snout can smell that pill, even inside liverwurst!
That’s when I use empty gelatin capsules, which you can buy at any health food store and online. Open the capsule, pour the liquid into it, and close it up. Then use a slice of deli meat or any of the tricky foods above to hide the capsule and proceed.
If you’re dealing with a pill, you can use a pill splitter to cut it up and put the pieces inside the capsules. Careful, though — some chemo agents given at home should NOT be cut open. Follow the label!
One note on gelatin caps: some dogs don’t tolerate them well.
Editor, The Dog Cancer Survival Guide
Recommended Supplements for Dogs with Cancer: The Most Important Supplements in Order of Importance from The Dog Cancer Survival Guide
Prednisone for Dogs: Uses for Dog Cancer and Other Medical Conditions, Side Effects, Alternative Options, and More
Molly Jacobson is a writer and also the editor of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide, published by Maui Media. A lifelong dog lover and self-professed dog health nerd, she is all too familiar with dog cancer. She has been supporting readers of this blog since the beginning. Molly earned a BA from Tufts University, and after a career in bookselling and book publishing attended The Swedish Institute to become a licensed massage therapist in New York State, licensed by the medical board. Her fascination with health is both personal and global, and she is most proud of how this site and the associated publications have revolutionized not only our approach to dog health, but our own health.
Creampuffs! 1 cream puff can be broken in half and used for 2 (or more if small) pills. Maybe a little high on calories but they work, and can be used when your dog wont take healthier options. My dog just wolfes them down.
I have tried all of these, and more. Luna is not the least bit food motivated, so I’m doomed from the start. I can’t grind up or break her Palladia (chemo) pills, so all I’ve found that works is to coat the pill in butter (the squeeze kind), drop it as far down her throat as I can, hold her mouth shut and squirt a syringe of water between her teeth.
However, she occasionally holds it in her throat till yellow/orange water starts to seep out the sides of her mouth. I’m sure once the coating starts to come off it tastes even worse. Sometimes she’ll cough or choke and spew pieces of the pill and liquid all over. The yellow stains terribly…cloth, floor and skin. I wear gloves when I administer it, now I’ve started wearing glasses. Next I’ll have to suit up in a PPE gown.
This has been going on for over a year and nothing else has come close to working. However, it’s been almost 3 years since her surgery for liver and adrenal cancer (pheochromocytoma) and she’s doing well. So the battle continues…
I chew up some English walnuts, put it on a plate, make a fingerprint in the middle, pull the top off of the pill if it’s in powder form, allow the little bit that’s in the top to fall into the depression I made, place the opened capsule in and roll it all together making sure none of the powder is on the outside. He takes it easily, this way. I found out the capsules were going right through his system and out into the poop, those pills are expensive. No more capsules in the poop.
One of my pill tricks is to grind the tablets. Add about 2Tbs. of buttermilk, then feed. My dogs will lick
up every bit.
I use a mortar and pestle for the grinding and add the buttermilk to the mortar.
Great article, thanks for sharing… I finally discovered using Vienna Sausages. Use a thermometer to punch a hole through them, I put her Chemo pill in one end and the Prednisone in the other end. Because of her sensitive nose I put peanut butter over the holes and she swallows the sausage in one bite. Been doing this for three years and our Yorkypoo ‘Roxy’ is still going strong, full of energy and plays on the floor with me every night. She is 13 and I hope she makes it to 20… hope this helps someone to save their precious babies, Gary in Marietta Georgia..
I think my dogs would just about die of happiness if I offered them this treat. Great idea!!
One treat that you didn’t mention was marshmallows. They have been my go -to for many years and many dogs without any refusals.
Thanks, Laura, added!