Dog medication advice to help keep your pet safe and healthy

If a dog is part of your family, you’re aware that there are a wide range of medications and drugs that involve various delivery systems. They include everything from topical, dermal patches, oral, intra-dermal injections, solutions, drops, intranasal and medicated collars to spot-on, creams, shampoos, dips and injections, just to mention a few. The list is long and can be confusing.

While many medical conditions require different administrative avenues, co pet owner medications, which occur on a daily or monthly basis, are slightly easier to administer.

One rule of thumb is to have your veterinarian or veterinary technician train you to administer the medication your pet requires. Besides just placing a pill in a small amount of dog food and then feeding it to you dog, you will learn vital techniques to better administer medications in the event your dog is not cooperative.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that you want to make the entire administration process as positive of an experience as possible. This means confidence, control, consistency, and a lot of praise.


Do learn from the pros

We learn how to drive a car by having someone who knows how to drive teach us. Veterinarians and staff are experienced in administering medication and will be able to teach you the specifics to help make the experience as easy as possible on you and your dog.

Do keep it positive

If you freak out when it comes to medication time there’s a good chance your dog will too. Use soft, soothing tones, don’t make the process appear to be a big deal, and heap lots of praise on your dog throughout. Your energy will dictate your dog’s response. When medication time is over, spend a little time playing with your dog’s favorite toy or going for a walk. The goal is to associate medicine time with a good time.

Do get crafty

Certain kinds of medications can be delivered through your dog’s food. Consider using what are known as “pill pockets.” These are meat-flavored treats with a hollow center that allows you to place the pill inside and feed to your dog. Also, ask your veterinarian if any oral solutions you are administering can be mixed in to store-sold gravies which can be added to your dog’s daily meals.

Do follow all directions

Following the medicine administration directions of your veterinarian cannot be stressed highly enough. This is not the time for any of us to play doctor. One pill three times daily doesn’t mean three pills at once because you missed the first two dosages. Follow the directions to the letter…every time.

Do stay consistent

We know it can be easy to forget to take our vitamins in the morning, but we can’t forget to give our dogs their medication as well. Get into the habit of administering proper doses at roughly the same time each day. Setting an alarm or a daily calendar reminder on your computer or smartphone will keep you on track and give the medication the best chance of working properly.


Do not jump in a lake if you can’t swim

While some medications can be hidden in food, others require skill to administer. Don’t practice on your dog. Learn the proper techniques from your veterinarian first, and then practice before you attempt at-home administration.

Do not change the rules

Medications are created following years of testing to provide the exact properties and dosages that address certain conditions. So no diluting, modifying, or adding medications unless your veterinarian advises otherwise. If the directions call for three drops in the eye that doesn’t mean two or five drops. If you have two or more medicines you need to administer, don’t deliver them together to make the process easier without first checking with your veterinarian about possible side effects.

Do not force it

Never fight or reprimand your dog if they are resistant at medication time. This will only ensure the same behavior the next time. Your job is to make the experience as pleasant and positive for your dog. Keep your dog calm and use treats, play and praise liberally as rewards.

Do not guess

Not sure if your dog swallowed its medicine? Then err on the side of caution and don’t provide a second dose. Your dog missing one dose is preferable to giving it too much.

Do not be afraid to ask for help

Slipping some medicine into a pill pocket and feeding it to your dog is one thing. Needing to administer daily insulin shots to your diabetic dog is another. If you are hesitant or afraid of administering some forms of medications, then ask your veterinarian for assistance. Most will be glad to have a staff member stop by to administer the drug for you or help you practice so you can learn the necessary skills yourself.

Jumping cartoon

The odds are that eventually your dog will need some form of medication. And while there is a financial cost involved and it requires a little extra work on our part, you should be thankful that you can help keep our dogs healthier, happier and living longer than ever before.

Just like our dogs depend on us for food, shelter and exercise, they are also dependent on us to make sure that health conditions are diagnosed and any medications properly administered. So if the time comes for your dog to receive medication, it should be approached the same way as other areas of dog ownership - with love, patience and care.

More expert advice about Dog Health and Wellness

Photo Credits: Doggie Portrait Session 1 by Andrew Morrell Photography via Flickr; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas -

Steven May, CVJPet Expert

Pet expert Steven May, CVJ has provided his expertise to both the veterinary industry and the general public for more than 35 years. The former editor of Vetz Magazine, May now heads the pet website The Daily Growl and has over 430,000 followers...

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