Whether you own a cat, or a small- or large-breed dog, medication administration can sometimes be challenging. Maybe your pet eats around the pills hidden in their food, hides when they see the medication bottle, or puts up an all-out fight over their ear medication. Whatever your difficulties, the Fremont Animal Hospital team has heard and seen them all, and we can help you overcome these issues. Here are a few tips to make medicating your pet easier and stress-free for everyone involved.
#1: Hide oral pet medications in tasty treats
This tried and true technique works well for many pets and should be your first attempt for oral medications. You can hide tablets or capsules whole, or open or crush them and mix the powder into the food, although the latter works only if the medication does not taste especially bitter. Avoid feeding your pet their regular meal prior to administering medication in food, so they are hungrier and more likely to accept your offering. Think outside the box—you may need to try several things or rotate food items, such as peanut butter, cheese, lunch meats, liver sausage, or hot dogs for dogs, and churu, tuna, squeeze cheese, or canned food for cats.
#2: Learn low-stress pet restraint techniques
If your pet won’t readily eat their oral medication, or you need to administer eye or ear medications, low-stress restraint is helpful. Small dogs and cats can be wrapped gently in a towel and medicated via oral syringe or piller—your veterinary team can demonstrate these techniques and assess your pet’s stress level while restrained. Large dogs can be asked to sit, and then one person holds them gently from behind while another administers the medication. If your pet is highly stressed, we may recommend another technique or medication type. Keep the interaction as positive as possible by immediately following the medication with an enjoyable item or activity, such as treats, toys, petting, praising, or brushing, to help create a positive association with restraint.
#3: Ask for compounded medications
If your pet consistently eats around pills or struggles while restrained, changing their medication form may be your best bet. Most oral medications can be made in a flavored liquid form, a dissolving tablet, a flavored chewable tablet, or a trans-dermal formulation, so you can customize your administration method to your pet’s needs. Only specialized pharmacies can make these medications, which are usually shipped to you a few days after your veterinarian places the order. In some cases, a compounded medication is less effective than the original formula, but may be a better option than no medication at all.
#4: Desensitize your pet to ear and eye handling
For ear and eye medications, desensitizing your pet to handling before they need any medication is the best strategy. First, pair gently touching your pet’s eye and ear area to a tasty treat or another valuable reward. Then, gradually increase exposure to the specific handling technique as your pet relaxes, at the same time simulating holding a medication bottle. Ask our team to demonstrate how your pet should become accustomed to certain positions, and consult with a trainer if you need additional assistance learning to implement this technique.
#5: Ask for longer-acting pet medications
Sometimes a longer-acting medication version is available to treat your pet’s condition, although these may be more expensive or slightly less effective than the original medication recommendation. Ask your veterinarian about all treatment options, including whether an injection or long-acting depot medication is a possibility for your difficult-to-medicate pet, but be prepared to pay more for these options.
#6: Control your pet’s pain
If you are charged with medicating your pet’s painful area, such as during an ear infection, your pet may guard the area and become overly sensitive to the process. If medications are painful for your pet, they may develop a negative association and be more difficult to treat. Ask your veterinarian about treatment and control of your pet’s pain and associated anxiety, so your pet can be medicated as necessary without long-term harm.
If you are struggling to medicate your pet despite these tips, do not put your pet or yourself at risk for injury from a struggle. Our Fremont Animal Hospital team members are skilled problem-solvers, and we can modify your pet’s treatment plan, or refer you to a trainer or behaviorist who will work with your pet to make future medications easier. Contact us if you would like us to demonstrate proper restraint, change your pet’s medication form, or discuss other strategies that will make medicating your pet easier.