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
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.