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Medicating Your Dog


© Jeff Grognet, DVM, 2010

No portion of this article may be reproduced without permission of the copyright holder. Reprinted with permission from Jeff Grognet, DVM, .

This article originally appeared in AKC's Family Dog. No portion of this article may be reproduced without permission of the copyright holder. Reprinted with permission. Jeff Grognet is a practicing veterinarian in Qualicum Beach, BC, Canada combining traditional medicine, acupuncture, and VOM. He writes extensively for pet publications and also teaches online courses for Veterinary Assistants ( – click on “course catalog”, then “veterinary”).

A visit to your veterinarian often means coming home with medication. If your dog has a skin infection, you may be dispensed oral antibiotics. The veterinarian may send home a daily anti-inflammatory to soothe arthritic pain in your old dog. Ear infections and eye ailments may require ointment or drops. Administering medication correctly makes treatment more effective, but some owners have trouble giving medicine to their dogs at home. As a practicing veterinarian, I've developed a few tricks to make medicating easier.


When it comes to oral medication, I like to have the dog in a sitting position on a nonslip surface. If necessary, a second person holds the dog from behind so he can't back up.

Start by holding the pill firmly between your thumb and index finger. Put the palm of your other hand on top of the dog's nose and slide your thumb and index finger into the mouth, pushing the lips in with your fingers. This opens the jaw, and also reduces the possibility of being bitten.

Once you have hold, rotate your wrist to tilt the head up. Your dog will reflexively open his mouth. Push the lower jaw down with the middle finger of the pill-holding hand and deposit the pill as farback on the tongue as possible. Quickly close the mouth and lower the head. Stroke the throat to encourage swallowing. To make this process even easier, first dredge the pill in butter or oil so it slides down effortlessly. You can also squirt a syringe full of water into the mouth to flush the pill down.

Some dogs resist manual pilling, but the good news is that dogs like treats. If the medication can be given with food, it's OK to wrap a tablet in a ball of cheese or peanut butter, or even a slice of bacon.
You can mix liquid medications with ice cream. Your veterinarian may he able to have your dog's medications formulated into a treat. There are also soft treats with pockets made especially for hiding pills.

There is also what I call the threewiener trick. Cut three pieces of hot dog, make a slit in one, and push the pill inside. Give your dog an "uncontaminated" piece so he can try it out. Once he knows that you'd never try to fool him, give him the one with the medicine. The real trick is that while he's chewing, you put the third piece in front of his nose. In the excitement he won't even notice the pill.


There are two ways to give liquids. One is to grasp the jaw as described above and squirt the liquid over the tongue. (Do it slowly so the dog doesn't inhale it.) But I prefer to tip the nose up, pull the cheek out, and dribble the liquid into the cheek pocket so it flows over the teeth and into the mouth. Rubbing the throat or blowing on the nose encourages swallowing.


Some dogs happily sit on your lap or a table while you medicate their ears, but most do require a little restraint. There are as many ways to apply ear medication as there are veterinarians: Here's my technique.

Use a second person or position yourself on the side of the patient away from the ear being medicated, facing the same direction as the dog. If the dog is on your right, put your left arm under the head and use it to pull the flap back, exposing the right ear. Hold your right elbow against the dog's right shoulder and use that hand to apply the medication,

If the problem is on the earflap, put a few drops on and spread it with your finger. If it's in the canal, dribble a few drops down inside and gently squeeze the outside of the ear to coat both sides of the canal. I recommend not putting the tip of the tube down the canal because the tip can become contaminated and it's hard to know how much medication you've put in. But other vets suggest putting the tip in so you know the medication's gone in the right place.


When putting drops in the eye, restrain the dog as you would for medicating the ear. Pull the eyelid open and put the drop of medication on the white of the eye. Another way is to pull the lower eyelid down to create a pouch to hold the medication. This technique is nice for ointments-squeeze a small ribbon into the pouch and gently massage with the eyelid closed to distribute the ointment.

Always follow the instructions given by your veterinarian, but try to make medicating a nice experience. If your dog cooperates, give praise and a reward. If you (or your dog) are losing your cool, back away and try later when you are both in a better frame of mind.

Jeff Grognet is a veterinarian with a practice in British Columbia, Canada. He is the president of the British Columbia Veterinary Medical Association and a frequent contributor to the AKC GAZETTE.

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