Pill Pockets for Dogs: Are They Safe Enough for Your Fur Baby?
We’ve all met that dog who is so food motivated and focused, that you could offer them raw Brussel sprouts and they’d gobble it up. For those pups, giving them a pill is super easy.
But then there are the picky pups. The dogs who change their preferences. They’ll eat a certain type of food well for a while, and then one day it’s no good. Given the choice, they’d have you fixing them individual dinners every night.
So what options do you have for those picky dogs, and all the others in between, when you need to give them a pill?
You can wrap the medication in peanut butter or cheese — or even shove them in a hot dog!
Then there are pill pockets. These strategically shaped treats have small holes in the center — perfect for tucking your fur baby’s meds in. They’re a staple in any pet store. But are they safe?
Let’s be honest, your dog isn’t just a pet. They’re a part of the family, like a four-legged child who loves you unconditionally and never talks back. You add supplements into their regime to help ease joint pain, boost their immune system, and aid their digestive health.
You don’t want to do anything that might be dangerous or unsafe for them.
Pill time might come with its own set of challenges, but it's not worth potentially hurting your pup.
So Are They Safe?
Every year millions of dogs use pill pockets without experiencing negative side effects. For most dogs, most breeds, and most circumstances, the pill pockets circulating at your local pet store are safe for your pup to use.
They are designed by veterinarians. For example, Greenies Pill Pockets advertise they are “designed and recommended by vets.” They even offer a flavor for dogs with food sensitivities.
The patent for “pill pockets” was filed in 1989. Since then, we’ve had decades of improvements, refinement, and science to ensure that each pill pocket option out there is safe and “fido-friendly.”
Take this patent application from 2015, which led to the development of the “Peanut Butter Pocket:”
"Sometimes my dog needs to take medication in pill form, and it is very difficult to get him to take his pills," said an inventor from Athens, Ga. "I thought that it would be much easier to give him his medicine if I put his pills into his dog treats."
No more fighting with Spot to get them to take their life-saving medication. Eliminating hassle and frustration when giving your pet their pill, they provide a safe and easier way to give your dog their medication.
The flavor of pill pockets helps to mask the sometimes unpleasant and bitter taste of some medicine that’s prescribed. With flavors like “Chicken” and “Hickory Smoke,” these pill pockets are enticing treats — your dog will especially love them without the pills.
But hiding pills within the treat could be a choking hazard, right?
In much the same way you can give your dog medicine by smothering it in peanut butter or hiding it in their food, most medium- to large-sized dogs have no problem eating the pill without any blockage to their throat.
*If, however, you have a smaller dog, or you have an older dog that has documented difficulty chewing or swallowing, you’ll want to verify with your dog’s veterinarian.
Your vet might not prescribe large pills in this case, especially if there is an alternative liquid medicine that can be administered more easily. We have some liquid supplements for those pups that just can’t quite manage a pill.
Because each dog has various, individual risk factors, it’s hard to say with certainty that any one pill pocket brand is 100% safe.
For example, some of the manufactured pill pockets for dogs on the shelf contain potential allergy-inducing ingredients for our canine friends. While these are scarce, this is manageable by understanding what those ingredients are, and avoiding them.
Some examples of allergy-inducing ingredients include:
Does this mean it’s safer to make homemade pill pockets?
If your dog has documented allergies to most of the ingredients that are in store-bought pill pockets, then it could be safer for you to make them at home.
With many recipes available online, you can easily make your dog’s pill pockets at home, with ingredients you source yourself, and can confidently know they won’t adversely affect your canine companion.
A word of caution: many of these recipes call for peanut butter. While your pup will love the taste, it is vital you choose one that doesn’t contain Xylitol. This is a sweetener that is highly toxic to dogs.
Giving a pill to your dog can be a stressful situation. When you have a pup who isn’t enticed by the usual tricks and is extremely picky, you can begin to dread administering their daily dose of medication.
And that’s not how it should be. You’re giving them supplements and medicine to help them feel better, not to stress them out.
Pill pockets for dogs can be a safe, easy, stress-free way to encourage even the pickiest of pups to gulp down their medicine. Veterinarians recommend using pill pockets specifically, touting it as the easiest way to give your pet their medicine.
Make Sure You’re Using Pill Pockets Safely
To protect your dog during pill time, it’s important to understand how to use the pill pockets for dogs safely and effectively.
It starts with your selection. If you’re choosing to use the store-bought pill pockets, make sure:
- The size you buy is appropriate for your dog (if you have dogs of different sizes, you’ll potentially need multiple sizes of pill pockets)
- Your dog’s medication pill will fit within the pill pocket
- There are no potential allergens that could affect your dog
If you’re choosing to make your own pill pockets at home, then you need to make sure you’ve chosen your ingredients carefully, and not included anything that might cause an adverse reaction (such as Xylitol in your peanut butter).
For store-bought pill pockets, each brand has instructions and illustrations available to help you learn the best way to use their pill pockets.
The recipes online for homemade pill pockets also include instruction on using them, as well as troubleshooting if things turn out a bit different than expected.
Usually, it’s as simple as 1, 2, 3.
First, you’ll insert the pill into the pill pocket. Make sure it’s snug and secure within the treat so it won’t fall out.
Second, to ensure the pill stays locked into place, pinch the top of the pill pocket “shut” around the medicine. Depending on the size of the pill compared to the size of the pill pocket, it might not completely enclose the medicine, but the texture of the pocket will hold it in place.
Three, give the pill pocket to your dog! You’ll need to observe your pet, and make sure they actually eat the medicine or supplement, and that it doesn’t mysteriously end up on the floor.
This will ensure your dogs get the necessary additions in their diets — medicine and supplement alike — without causing any dangerous or adverse side effects.
Occasionally you can give your dog a pill pocket without the pill to help disguise the intention of the treat. Especially if their pills have an unpleasant smell and taste, some dogs will start to pick up on the ruse.
Just like you should try to avoid mixing bitter medicine with their food — on the off-chance they catch on and stop eating — giving them a pill pocket as a treat (sans pill) is a great way to keep them guessing — especially if your dog is one smart cookie!
Where Can I Buy Pill Pockets For Dogs?
If your canine needs some help taking their medicine, and you’ve decided pill pockets are the right option for them, then here’s where to find them.
Any of the big pet retailers like PetSmart and PetCo have an aisle dedicated just to pill pockets for dogs. They’ll have an assortment of sizes for dogs big and small. They also have knowledgeable staff that can help you find the size you need for your pup’s medication.
Be sure to check for any potential allergens in the ingredient lists. Double-check they’ll be safe for your dog, especially if they have known allergies.
It can be helpful to try a few different flavors to find the ones your dog likes the most. Some dogs go crazy for the chicken flavor, and others are enthusiastic about the duck.
Check your retailer’s return policy as well. Some stores will accept returns and exchanges — even on open products — without any questions. It’s a risk-free way to sample the flavors to see which one is your dog’s favorite.
You can also find pill pockets for dogs at your smaller local pet stores. These stores also have knowledgeable staff, and usually carry smaller brands made for food-sensitive dogs.
They sometimes even have samples, so you can take a few and let your dog taste test before you purchase. This will save you the hassle of returning any flavors your dog doesn’t like and makes sure they love their pill pockets.
Even your local grocery store or supermarket might carry a limited selection of pill pockets. This might mean it’s harder to find the size you need for your pup or their favorite flavor, but it’s an option in a pinch.
Some online retailers sell natural, organic, and grain-free pill pockets for dogs — which are great alternative options for dogs with allergies. It can be a great, natural, healthy treat for your pup.
What Are the Best Pill Pockets Brands?
Right now, there are a few brands of manufactured pill pockets for dogs that have many 5-star reviews on Amazon and other online marketplaces.
The most popular brand is Greenies Pill Pockets. They are a soft, chewable, all-natural pill pocket that comes in multiple flavors: chicken, hickory smoke, duck & pea for sensitive dogs, and peanut butter — making it highly likely your dog will find a flavor they love.
Greenies Pill Pockets for dogs also come in a variety of sizes, so you can make sure they’re a good fit for your dog’s size and their medication.
Milkbone also makes pill pockets. They have 2 flavors: hickory-smoked bacon and chicken. They both have thousands of 5-star reviews online. They have no artificial flavors, by-products, or meal, and are flavorful enough to disguise the bitter smell and taste of some pills.
They come in one size meant for all dog breeds and are advertised to fit most tablets and capsules.
If you’re looking for a hypo-allergenic, limited ingredient option that doesn’t include any wheat, corn syrup, or meat, there are vegetarian pill pockets available from VetriScience. They have organic peanut butter for dogs that are sensitive to proteins, as well as a chicken liver flavor.
You have many options when choosing the best pill pockets for your dog. But maybe you’re not sold on the manufactured treats, and want to make them yourself instead. How do you start?
How to Make Pill Pockets For Dogs
You’ve done the research, shopped around, and decided not to use store-bought pill pockets for your dog. You’re ready to make them at home. What’s the safest recipe?
First, you’ll want to verify if you need to avoid any ingredients. If you know your dog is sensitive or allergic to any type of food, you’ll need to double-check the recipe to either avoid it or find a reasonable substitution.
For example, some recipes use wheat flour as the base for the homemade pill pockets. If your dog has a wheat allergy, you can substitute it with tapioca flour, as suggested in this recipe
Most recipes start with 3 basic ingredients:
- Peanut butter (without Xylitol)
- Flour — wheat, tapioca, oat, almond
Then you can just mix up the ingredients. It will form a type of “dough” that is quite heavy. Divide the dough into small balls (you can vary the size for your dog and/or the size of their medication).
Once you have your “pockets,” use a toothpick or something similar to form the hole for the pill. Make sure your dog’s medication will fit snugly inside, and if you can, leave room to pinch the top of the pocket around the pill (similar to the process of giving a store-bought pill pocket).
Some recipes recommend baking the pockets, and others conclude with storage instructions. You’ll want to keep them in an airtight container, as they don’t contain the same preservatives that manufactured pill pockets do, and therefore will have a shorter shelf life.
Homemade pill pockets can be a great way to reduce the allergens your dog is exposed to when they’re getting their daily B vitamin or probiotic. Safely administer your dog’s medications with a lovingly crafted pill pocket that is free of any potentially troubling ingredients.
They’re also a cheaper alternative to store-bought pill pockets as well. With some medications needing to be administered multiple times a day, the cost of each bag of treats adds up.
Whichever option you choose, store-bought or homemade, pill pockets for dogs are a vet-recommended, safe, easy way to give your pup their pills.
Reduce the Stress of Giving Your Dog Their Daily Pill
Pill pockets for dogs are a safe, effective, and tasty alternative to traditional pill administration. Instead of stressing out your pup when you give them their daily immune support supplement, you can make pill time into treat time.
Store-bought pill pockets can be a convenient option for you and your dog. They’re widely available, come in a variety of flavors your dog is sure to love, and are made in sizes that make them safe for every size dog.
If you’re concerned about your dog’s size, potential allergic effects, or your dog’s medicine doesn’t seem to fit in the standard pill pockets available, you can make your dog homemade pill pockets.
Sourcing your own ingredients, flexibility in size, and reduced cost make homemade pill pockets a great option if you have the time to do a little bit of mixing and baking.
“After all, our dogs are family, so why wouldn't we pay the same attention to their diet as we do to ours and that of our children?”
Dogs are an integral part of our families, and we love them as they love us — unconditionally. When they need supplements or pills to help maintain or elevate their health, we strive to make it as stress-free as possible.
Pill pockets for dogs are a great way to treat your pup at pill time.
Now that you know how you’ll give them their supplements, check out our all-natural, carefully curated supplements for each stage of your fluffy friend’s life.