Consider the array of unsavory items your pet will devour—with impeccable timing, of course, such as the middle of your dinner party, when you are meeting the new neighbors, or the first time your teenager brings their boyfriend/girlfriend home for dinner. Yet, the moment you offer them a delicious morsel with the tiniest pill inside, they run for the hills. Administering medication to a pet can seem an impossible battle. Fortunately, the Town & Country Animal Hospital team is here to help with tried and true tips for medicating your pet.
Talk tactics with your veterinarian
An accurate diagnosis and prescription medication can be important components of your pet’s treatment plan, but if you cannot successfully medicate your pet, their condition won’t improve, and you and your pet will feel frustrated. Set yourself, and your pet, up for success by eliciting advice from your veterinarian and pharmacist.
Your pet’s medication can be administered in a variety of forms, including pill, tablet, and liquid. Ask your veterinarian to explain your pet’s prescription with you in detail, and request a demonstration. Ask the following questions about your pet’s prescription, before heading to the pharmacy:
- What is the medication form—pill, tablet, or liquid—and what tips do you have for its administration?
- What is the proper dosage, and how often should the medication be administered?
- How should I store the medication (e.g., some medicines require refrigeration)?
- Are there any potential adverse side effects, and what should I do if my pet shows the signs?
Taking the time to ask questions can alleviate your anxiety around medicating your pet. What looks simple at the veterinarian’s office can seem daunting at home, but take a deep breath, and follow these tips, and you will master the art of medicating your pet.
Keep calm and praise your pet when medicating
Pets pick up on their owner’s emotions, so set a positive tone for medication time. It’s normal to feel unsure the first few—or more—times you medicate your pet, but muster up your most animated “baby voice,” and shower your pet with praise and treats, before, during, and after the deed.
Find your pet’s favorite medication method—no one size fits all
Your neighbor’s Labrador may salivate at the mere thought of devouring a tasty pill “treat,” while your pet masterfully eats around every trace of their medication. Every pet is different, and you may need to experiment to find what works best for them, and for you. Here are some techniques to entice your pet:
- Make your pet a medicine meatball — Most pills and tablets can be given with food. Make a “meatball” by placing the medicine inside a small ball of sticky, flavorful food, such as xylitol-free peanut butter, canned food, or cheese. Always ask your veterinarian or pharmacist if your pet’s medicine is compatible with dairy products. The strong meatball smell masks the medicine’s scent, and the taste will be more palatable for your pet. Follow these steps to make medicating a breeze:
- Give your pet a non-medicated meatball, to ensure they will eat it.
- As soon as they finish, quickly offer them a second ball with medication hidden inside.
- Follow up with a third, medication-free meatball.
Switch up the order of the meatballs periodically to keep your pet from getting suspicious, but ensure the last treat is medicine-free, to diminish any bad taste in your pet’s mouth.
- Pill your pet like a pro — If your pet can’t be fooled, and is unwilling to eat a disguised treat, you will need to administer their medication with a finger or pilling device. These steps will ensure your pet’s pill gets swallowed, and you keep all your fingers:
- Gently press your pet’s lips to their teeth, and press one finger to the roof of their mouth.
- As your pet opens wide, use your other hand to place the pill on the back of their tongue.
- Quickly close your pet’s mouth, stroke their throat to encourage swallowing, and give them plenty of praise.
- Compound your pet’s medication for added flavor — Some tablets and capsules can be compounded into liquids, and flavored for a pet’s taste. Many cats prefer tuna flavoring, and canine connoisseurs often go for the bacon and cheddar cheese taste. Some methods for administering liquid medication, compounded or not, include:
- Subtly soaking your pet’s food — For voracious eaters, simply adding liquid medication to pet food or a special treat may be all that is needed. Ensure your pet eats all their food, and that no medication remains.
- Using a hands-on approach — If your pet refuses their medicine-soaked food, you can administer the medication into their mouth with a syringe or dropper. Follow these steps:
- Fill the syringe with the correct dosage. Mark the syringe at the fill line with a fine-tipped marker, to ensure you administer the correct amount every time.
- Take your pet to a quiet, comfortable area, and stay calm and positive. Repeat the saying, “Fake it till you make it.”
- While securely holding your pet, slip the syringe into the corner of their mouth under their lips. Ask a family member or friend to help, if necessary. One person can keep your pet secure, while the other administers the medication.
- Dispense the liquid slowly into the pouch between your pet’s teeth and cheek. Squirting too quickly can send liquid down their trachea, and cause coughing and irritation.
- Ensure your pet swallows all their medication, and immediately give them a delicious treat and lots of praise.
If liquid medication doesn’t suit your pet, some pharmacists can compound it as a chewable treat or melt-away tablet.
Miss your pet’s dose?
If you forget one of your pet’s doses, give it as soon as you remember, and wait the recommended amount of time between doses. Never give your pet two doses at once.
Monitor your pet after medicating
If you suspect your pet has overdosed, or is having an adverse reaction to their medication, call our hospital immediately.
Medicating pets takes patience and practice, but you will soon be medicating your pet like a pro. If you have questions about your pet’s prescription, or need to schedule an examination or a demonstration, contact Town & Country Animal Hospital.