Saturday, July 18, 2015

DIY: Homemade Pill Pockets for Dogs with Allergies

Pill Pockets are super convenient for dogs that need to take pills, but my dog is allergic to them. All of the regular flavors, barbecue, peanut butter, are made out of chicken liver. The allergy formula Pill Pockets are duck-based, no good for dogs with poultry allergies like Brisbane. I discovered other pill treats that were safe for his allergies, but they were pretty expensive to use on a regular basis. I began to wonder how hard it would be to make something like that myself.

A quick Google search for 'diy Pill Pockets' led me to this site, which provides a simple recipe for peanut butter pill treats.

This easy recipe, which I can't actually attribute to anyone since the author of the above blog states that they discovered it via googling, uses only three ingredients. It calls for two parts flour, one part milk, and one part peanut butter. Knead the ingredients together and add a little more flour or milk until you have a nice playdough texture. This can be stored as-is or formed into balls or pockets. I was somewhat shocked at how lovely the ones shown on that site ended up, but the author mentions that hers didn't look like that so it's probably a stock photo after all.

After reading a few more recipes, I was able to generalize this formula so it can be used with a wide variety of ingredients. The formula is:

2 parts something dry

1 part something wet

1 part something oily

Pretty general, right? The ratios will need to be adjusted a bit as you make it, but they're a good place to start. It's basically a playdough recipe. Heck, I used to make peanut butter playdough with my daycare kids out of a recipe like this, we used powdered sugar, honey, and peanut butter. The trick is to use ingredients that dogs think are tasty.

Dry Ingredients: You'll need some sort of flour, but it doesn't need to be regular wheat flour. Thanks to the gluten fad, there are a ton of alternative flours available. For this project, I went to the bulk section of my local Whole Foods store. I purchase approximately one cup each of tapioca flour, garbanzo bean flour, and coconut flour. They also had rice flour, and there are a ton of other grain/nut/starch flours out there. It doesn't even technically have to be a type of flour, I'm sure that chicken powder or anything with a powdery texture would work.

Wet Ingredients: I've tried yogurt, and meaty baby food so far. I also plan to try broth, canned dog food, liver paste, and meat that has been whizzed in a food processor. Applesauce, mashed bananas, or any other type of fruit puree might work, but I would be sure to use at least one really super-tasty ingredient along with it. Water should also work just fine.

Oily Ingredients: Peanut butter is the one used in the original recipe, and it serves the dual purpose of making the treats taste awesome and providing the right doughy texture. I tried using coconut oil with pretty good results, probably any vegetable oil would work. Safflower oil would be good, even fish oil if you don't mind the smell. I plan to try hamburger grease and bacon grease next time I have some.

It's important to remember that these are supposed to be incredibly amazing treats full of awesomeness. The ingredients that meet those criteria will vary from dog to dog, but it's important to keep "awesome" in mind. Some dogs will love banana-coconut oil-rice flour treats, but picky dogs may turn their noses up. The relative health of each ingredient isn't a big consideration, as long as it does not upset your dog's tummy. Remember that half the recipe is made up of flour, and that a little of each goes a long way. I've been mixing these up using a tablespoon as "1 part", and a single tablespoon of bacon grease gets turned into a least a dozen treats.

How Do I Make Them 'Pill Pocket'-Shaped?
Some of the people who shared their recipes on various sites mentioned that they mix up their pill dough and then just store it in a big wad and pull off pieces as they need them. I had been dishing up Brisbane's pills in a lump of peanut butter, and individually rolling pills in dough every single day didn't seem particularly less inconvenient.

The Zoe Pill Pops come in individual chunks, but I have to moosh the pill into each one. I wanted something as convenient as the brand-name pill pockets.

To make these, I divided my lump of dough into little chunks, and then rolled each one into a ball, I pressed the back of a chopstick into the ball and then reformed it around the end of the stick. Twist the stick to remove it, and you have a less-than-perfect but highly functional treat that is all ready for you to hide a pill. These are generally going to be perishable, I recommend storing them in an airtight container in the refrigerator. I also successfully froze and defrosted a batch.

My first round of DIY pill pockets were tapioca flour-yogurt-peanut butter, and both Brisbane and foster dog Xena enjoyed them, though Ru and a visiting dog with dental issues both turned them down. The second was a batch of garbanzo bean flour-beef babyfood-coconut oil, but it turns out that garbanzo bean flour has a very strong taste that my dogs don't like, so everybody hated them. The third was a coconut flour-beef babyfood-coconut oil batch, which only Brisbane liked. So far tapioca flour seems to be the favorite dry ingredient over here. I fully intend to make some tapioca flour-applesauce-bacon grease pockets in the near future.


  1. How handy! My dog currently isn't on any pills, but will store this in my head for future use.

  2. These sound amazing! When I need to use pill pockets, I would totally make these! I am thinking meat meal-liver paste-bacon grease. Will try it some day. There are these alligator treats from Think! Dog that smell fantastically - like good summer BBQ! So maybe my super meaty pill pockets would too.

    1. Where do you find meat meal? That's really the only thing stopping me from trying a recipe like that. I think it's totally cool to use spices too, throw some BBQ sauce in there!

  3. My dog has food allergies, so I used her hypoallergenic dog biscuits ground into powder in my food processor. I added pumpkin and fish oil,(I had to play with the ratios a bit) they worked great! Thanks so much

  4. This is awesome! My dogs can't tolerate grain so I used coconut flour, peanut butter, chicken broth and a bit of pumpkin baby food. I made a dough and used it to treat my dog between droppers of liquid medicine. Worked great. I can't wait to try varying ingredients!