Canine Medications
Learn about different types of canine medications, such as antimicrobials, antivirals, anti-fungals, and more. Also learn about general medication guidelines and how to give different forms of medicines (e.g. pills, drops, etc.) to a dog.

There are a lot of different types of medications for various canine illnesses and symptoms.

It is important for dog parents to have a general understanding of canine medicine, such as the types, the use, and how to medicate a dog.

This page looks at the following topics:

Types of Canine Medications

Common types of canine medications include:


This type of dog medicines include the drugs that fight small invaders of your dog’s body – bacteria, protozoa, rickettsia, and mycoplasma.

The purpose of antimicrobials is to destroy or inhibit the growth of these microorganisms. Within this class, the most common group is the antibiotics. These medications use a substance produced by one microorganism to fight others.

Antibiotics may be bactericidal (killing bacteria) or bacteristatic (inhibiting bacterial growth).


In addition to vaccines and our dogs’ own immune systems that work as the primary defense against viruses, there are also antiviral medications available for veterinary use.

However, these tend to be very expensive and tend to have multiple adverse side effects. Antivirals are mostly prescription drugs and should be used only under strict veterinary guidance.


Antifungal medications attack undesirable fungi, including both mild skin forms (e.g. ringworm) and serious internal forms.

Some of these antifungals are very powerful medications with serious side effects. They should always be used under strict veterinary guidance.


This group of canine medications are drugs used to kill parasites of different forms (e.g. internal parasites like worms, protozoa, etc., and external parasites like fleasmitesticks, etc.).

Parasiticides are basically poisons and while most of them are considered quite safe for pets, they should always be used and handled with care and in exact accordance with their directions.

Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

These are medications used to reduce inflammation and relieve pain. Common examples of NSAIDs are aspirin and Rimadyl.

NSAIDs can cause adverse side effects in dogs and should only be used under veterinary guidance (even the over-the-counter ones).


Steroids such as prednisone are considered by some as “miracle drugs” since they can accomplish a wide variety of functions.

For example, they are anti-inflammatory and are used in dogs for treating arthritis or for autoimmune problems.

But, steroids especially if used long-term, can cause very serious side effects. They should always be used and handled with care and in exact accordance with their directions.


Antihistamines such as Benadryl is used primarily to treat canine allergies. Many antihistamines are OTC meds, but it is advisable to consult with a veterinarian for dosage and safety before using them on your dogs.


These drugs are used to treat canine cancer. They are extremely powerful and dangerous and should be used only under the supervision of your veterinarian. While they are made to destroy only unwanted cancerous cells, sometimes normal tissues are affected too.

General Medication Guidelines

When handling and using canine medications, there are certain simple and straightforward guidelines that should be followed for the safety of your dog:

  • Make sure you know the medication you are giving to your dog. Packages or bottles should be clearly labeled.
  • Make sure you understand the purpose of the medication – why your dog is taking this drug, what condition is being treated, and what changes you should see in your dog’s clinical signs.
  • You need to know the correct dosage and other specific directions for giving the medication to your dog. For example, find out if the medication should be taken on an empty stomach or with meals.
  • Before giving OTC meds to your dog, consult your veterinarian first.
  • If you don’t know how to medicate your dog, ask your veterinarian for guidance or a demonstration.
  • Use all of the medication as directed – Do not stop giving it to your dog until it is finished or your vet advises you to do so.
  • Do not use any medication that has expired.
  • Make sure you know the possible side effects of the medication.
  • Tell your veterinarian if your dog is on any other medications or supplements to make sure that there are no contraindications.
  • Store all medications safely and out of the reach of your dog (and children).

How to Give Medicines to a Dog

Pills, Tablets, and Capsules

  • Have your dog sit beside you.
  • Gently reach over the top of the dog’s muzzle in (right behind the whiskers) with your left hand.
  • Pull gently down on the lower jaw with your right hand.
  • As the mouth opens, put the pill as far as you can into the back of the dog’s mouth.
  • Close the dog’s mouth and stroke his neck to induce swallowing.

If the pills can be given with food, try using treats like Greenies Pill Pockets to hide the medicine in the treat.


  • Have your dog sit beside you.
  • Use a plastic dropper or needle-less springe to draw up the prescribed amount of fluid.
  • Pinch the dog’s lips together.
  • Insert the end of the dropper into the cheek pouch and seal the lips with your fingers.
  • Tilt the dog’s chin upward.
  • Gently dispense the medication.

Eye Medications

  • Check the label to see if medication is needed for one or both eyes, and if it is necessary to clean or flush the eye before medicating.
  • Have your dog sit beside you.
  • Gently tip your dog’s head back a little and carefully pull down on the lower lid.
  • Drops can simply be applied from above to drip onto the eye.
  • Ointments should be carefully applied to the inside of the lower lid.
  • When your dog closes his eye, the medication will be spread across the eye.

Ear Medications

  • Check the label to see if medication is needed for one or both ears, and if it is necessary to clean the ear or prepare it in any way before putting in the medication.
  • Have your dog sit beside you.
  • Gently pull the ear straight up.
  • Drop or squeeze the medication directly down into the ear canal.
  • Close the ear and gently massage it from the outside.


Some dogs need daily injections (e.g. dogs with diabetes). Ask your veterinarian to show you exactly how to give these medications.