Giving Medication to Your Pet
As pet-parents, we want to give our dogs and cats the best life we possibly can. We are committed to belly rubs and walks, tasty treats and potty training, and of course quality veterinary care like you would find at our Sicklerville, New Jersey animal hospital. Of course, veterinary care does not end with bringing us your pet’s stool sample or receiving acupuncture treatments. It continues with at home care, which for many pet-parents means providing medication for the furry friend. This is where an interesting problem comes into play: pets are not always eager to take their medication. Here are some tips that may help!
Tip #1: Get Sneaky
Sneaking a pill or liquid medication into food is a time-honored tool for getting pets to take their medicine. Many times, this is the easiest method.
- Feed small amounts. If you add the medicine to an entire bowl of food, it might be possible to miss the medicine and eat around it. Include the medicine with small portions or treats.
- Hide the stink with stink. If your pet can smell the medication and is adverse to eating it as a result, try to distract from that smell with an even more appetizing and/or pungent smell. Fish and some cheezes may have a strong enough odor to distract from the medicine smell.
Tip #2: Change the Chemistry
This tip won’t apply to every situation. Some liquid medications are made at compounding pharmacies. The pharmacist can compound the medication with particular flavors to make the medication more palatable for your pet. Common flavors are chicken, beef, and fish. Your pet may not find a particular flavor palatable, while another is just what she likes!
Tip #3: Use Behavior to Your Advantage
- Use a mixed schedule for treats. Don’t give treats only with medicine. Give treats a few times per day and include medication only once, so that the pet will continue to be interested in eating treats you give even when the medicine makes it less rewarding.
- Use peanut butter paws. For this method, mix the liquid medication or crushed pills into some peanut butter and apply it to your pet’s paws. They will want to lick it off, both to clean the paw and for the tasty peanut butter! Watch to be sure they do actually consume it all. You can practice with just peanut butter to be sure they behave appropriately.
- Use pack pressure. If you have a multi-pet home, you can give treats to the whole gang and get them all excited about treat time together. Slip the medicine-containing treat to the patient in the midst of all the fun!
Tip #4: Place the Medicine in the Mouth
You may find these above tips ineffective for your pet. In this case, you may need to directly place the medicine into the pet’s mouth.
- For dogs: tilt the head back, grasp the top jaw between your thumb and index finger and pull up. Gently pry the lower jaw open with your middle and ring fingers and place the pill in the dog’s mouth. Stroke the throat to encourage swallowing. Avoid placing your fingers over the sharp canine teeth. Don’t tilt the head back if you’re giving a dog or cat liquid medication, as this can cause choking. Aim the dropper to the side of mouth between the teeth and the gums.
- For cats: place your hand over the upper jaw, then tilt the head backward. Many cats will automatically open their mouths at this point, and you can insert the pill. If this doesn’t happen, use your middle finger to gently open the jaw, then deposit the pill near the back of the mouth. Don’t tilt the head back if you’re giving a dog or cat liquid medication, as this can cause choking. Aim the dropper to the side of mouth between the teeth and the gums.
If you are concerned that your pet may bite you, a pill gun may be a useful tool to get the pet to take their pills.
Tip #5: Ask for Help
You may need assistance getting your pet to take their medicine. Don’t risk injury! You know your pet best. If you feel there is risk in trying to get them to take their medicine by yourself, have someone help restrain the pet while you control the head and give the medicine. You can also ask your veterinarian for help. They may be able to provide more specific advice and other options for certain medications.