Giving your pet medication can be highly stressful. Stubborn animals can make the job particularly tricky, which may result in your pet receiving the incorrect dosage.

Certainly, some pets require ongoing medication to help keep a chronic condition under control. In this case, pet owners need to educate themselves on how to administer medicine correctly to ensure their pet’s long-term wellbeing.

Whether it’s a pill, liquid medicine or even eye drops, we’ve got a few tips and tricks to help take the stress out of giving your beloved pet the medication he or she needs.

How to correctly give medication to your cat or dog

All pet owners will, at some point, have to give their pet medicine. It might be ongoing medication for a particular condition or it could be preventative medication to stop worms or fleas.

Of course, as a reliable and loving pet parent, you want to give the correct medicine at the right dose and frequency. The first step in doing this is making sure you understand what the medicine is for and how it must be administered.

If the medicine has come from your vet, ensure they not only verbally tell you how to administer it, but they also write it down for you. This will help avoid errors down the track.

While it’s vital to know the dosage and frequency at which medicine needs to be given, you also need to know how to administer it correctly. Indeed, when there are animals involved this isn’t always as easy as it might seem! However, the advice points below might help.

Administering oral pet medication

  • Hold the medicine (pill, capsule, tablet) in between your thumb and index finger of your dominant hand.
  • using the other hand, firmly grip the upper jaw using the thumb and index finger.
  • Use your middle finger of the same hand to prize the lower jaw open at the same time tilting the head upwards (by simply rotating your wrist).
  • Pop the medicine as far back on the tongue as possible and close their mouth.
  • Stroke the throat or softly blow on the nose to encourage swallowing.

If your pet spits out the medicine, try hiding it in a piece of food — such as a small piece of meat or cheese. Ideally, use low-fat cheese.

TIP: Warming the cheese in the microwave makes it much easier to push the pill into it.

Administering liquid medicine

  • Firstly ensure the required amount of medicine is in the syringe or dropper.
  • Seize the dog’s muzzle or if administering to a cat, grip the cheekbones with the thumb and index finger.
  • Hold the syringe or dropper in the other hand and release the medicine onto the pouch (between the cheek and teeth).
  • Gently but firmly hold the animal’s mouth shut, to prevent them from spitting out the medicine, and tilt their head slightly back.

TIP: If ongoing dosing is required (For example, daily dosing for a number of days or weeks), be sure to praise your pet or reward them with a little treat after they successfully take their medicine.

Administering ear medicine

  • If administering to a dog, hold open the ear and gently pull upwards from the base to straighten and open the canal.
  • Place the tip of the applicator tube or bottle in the outer part of the ear canal.
  • If administering to a cat, hold the tip of the cat’s ear, while steadying the head with the base of your hand.
  • Be prepared for the animal to flinch suddenly when the medicine hits the inside of the ear.
  • Squeeze out the required number of drops and gently stretch the dog’s ear away from the head slightly to allow the medicine to dissipate. For cats, simply rub the base of the ear.

TIP: Encourage co-operation by giving your pet a treat before and after administering their ear medication.

Administering eye medicine

Not even humans like eye medicines, so administering them to an animal can be particularly daunting. Here are a few tips to help ensure success.

  • Ensure your pet is calm and comfortable.
  • Using the thumb or index finger of your dominant hand gently prise open the eyelid.
  • Hold the medicine bottle or dropper in the other hand with the tip approximately 2cms above the eye. Release the required number of drops into the eye.
  • Allow the eyelid to close and gently place the flat of your hand over the eye to keep it closed.

TIP: It’s okay if your dog starts blinking. This will simply help move the medication around the eye area.

Pet medication: how to avoid errors

As a responsible pet owner, it’s important to learn how to give your pet medication without making mistakes. After all, the last thing you want to do is make your fur baby sicker.

Here are a few hints to help reduce the likelihood of making a mistake.

  • Always check the dosage and frequency. Even if you give your pet medicine regularly, it doesn’t harm to remind yourself of these important factors.
  • If you have any concerns regarding administering medicine to your pet, always contact your local vet – even if it seems like a silly question!
  • If your vet prescribes medicine for your pet, ask them to write down the information on a piece of paper, as verbal instructions are too often forgotten.
  • Double check the medicine label matches what you have been told by the vet. Conflicting information is sure to cause confusion when it comes to actually giving your pet the medicine.
  • Ensure that only one person in your household is responsible for administering the medication (this will help avoid doubling up of doses).

white and black dog, giving a pet medicine

5 hacks to help you give your pet medicine

For some pet parents getting their cat or dog to take their medicine can be hugely challenging (like trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube!).

Having a few crafty tricks up your sleeve can be really helpful in making the whole process easier. Here are a few tips.

  1. Sneak it in their food. Cream cheese, bacon, raw meat and peanut butter are perfect vehicles when it comes to getting your pet to take its medicine.
  2. Don’t over-think it. Pets can sense their owner’s stress, so stay calm.
  3. Use the art of distraction. For example, grab your pet’s lead for ‘walkies’ and as you do so pop the medicine in your fur baby’s mouth. Hopefully, they’ll be so excited about going for a walk that they’ll wolf the doctored treat down without a second thought.
  4. Appeal to your dog’s competitive nature. If you have more than one dog, use this to your advantage. Gather your bark buddies together. Hide the medication in one treat. Tell each dog to sit and as they do so, reward with a treat (giving the doctored treat to the dog that needs it). Dogs tend to east faster when there are other dogs around who could potentially steal their treat.
  5. If you have a particularly fussy pet that simply will not take his or her medicine, ask your vet if they can re-formulate it into a flavoured liquid or tasty treat.

There’s no denying that giving your pet medicine can be frustrating, but it’s important to try not to make it a stressful situation. Do your best to stay calm for your own health, as well as that of your pet.

If you do find it all too hard, be sure to visit your vet. They can offer some additional tips or even give you a demonstration.


How do you administer medicine to your cat or dog? We’d love for you to share your tips and tricks.


Image source: Unsplash

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Leanne Philpott

Leanne is a freelance writer at She works alongside her fur pal Chewie (a border terrier) and is passionate about promoting responsible pet ownership.

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