Putting the Treat into Treatment: Getting Medicine Into Pets Effectively but Kindly

Liquid Medications

For liquid medication, start by giving your pet a pleasant association with the delivery method — a needleless syringe, usually. Put something tasty on the tip and let him lick it off. Do this a few times so he becomes accustomed to having it near his mouth and thinks it’s a good thing.

Load the syringe with medication. If you're giving a dog medication, use a favorite toy or a wooden spoon lavished with peanut butter to get him to look upward. If available, a helper can hold the item above his nose, or you can place the toy or treat on a counter or other area that requires him to look up at it.

While he’s concentrating on this enticing distraction, lift his lip on one side, place the syringe inside the mouth at the side of the cheek, and use a slow, steady motion to release the medication. Stroke his throat to encourage a swallowing motion. As always, end with a treat.

To give your cat a liquid medication, hold her head still with one hand and insert the syringe into her mouth with the other. Place it between her cheek and her teeth and aim it toward the back of her head. Slowly depress the plunger to release the medicine.

Hold her mouth closed and encourage her to swallow by gently stroking her throat or blowing on her nose. Reward her with a treat.


Pets with diabetes or allergies may need regular injections. Don’t panic! Most pets learn to accept shots without difficulty, and you can learn to give them with ease.

Your veterinarian or a technician will demonstrate how to draw the medication into the syringe and inject it subcutaneously (a $5 word that means beneath the skin). He or she may have you practice on an orange before you move on to injecting your pet.

Using the techniques described above, distract your dog with food or a toy as he receives the injection. If possible, plan his injections so that he receives a treat or meal immediately afterward.

Medication Magic

The real secret to getting medication into your dog or cat is to stay calm and focused. Work in a quiet area without a lot of distractions like kids or other pets. A spritz of pheromone spray in advance can help to relax your pet. Prepare everything you need beforehand, including reading the directions, and don’t rush the process.

Finally, don’t forget the treats and praise. Mary Poppins had it right: “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, in the most delightful way.”

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