How to Give Oral Medication To Your Pets

More often than not, pets are sent home with medications after an appointment. These medications may be preventive – such as de-worming, tick and flea meds, or they could be to treat a condition- antibiotics, pain meds, thyroid medications, or one of many other reasons. Medications come in different forms, and with each form there may be a technique that makes it easiest to administer. If your pet is food motivated, make sure that you have treats handy. It is also good to have a favorite toy or activity planned for after the medication – especially if it is a struggle, so that your pet knows there is a reward waiting.

Topical medications are usually easiest, and the ones that we most often dispense in this form are deworming medications. To apply a topical de-wormer or tick/flea medication, part the fur between the shoulder blades so that you can see the skin and squeeze the entire contents directly onto the skin (rather than on top of a heavy fur coat). Do not pet, wash, or allow swimming for at least two hours after applying. If the medication is applied too close to the middle of their back, they can turn and lick it off which we want to avoid. If someone can distract your pet’s head, it can be easy to get all of the medication on in less than 10 seconds! Another one of the easiest medications to give are the ones that look just like treats. One of our deworming medications as well as a tick/flea medication both come in a flavored chewable form.

Oral medications come in several forms – pills, capsules, and liquids. Some pills can be crushed or mixed with water to be added to food. Pill pockets can become a pet owner’s best friend with pets that need medication daily. They are a soft treat with a hole in the center that can easily hide a pill and have a great variety of flavors to help mask any bitterness from the medication. Cats can be very difficult to pill if they do not willingly eat pill pockets. Wrapping them in a towel and having a second person to assist can be very helpful. Using one person to hold the cat (especially the front legs that they will likely try to paw you away with), the person pilling will use one hand to hold the upper lips beside the canine (fang) teeth and point the nose straight up at the ceiling, then use the other hand to pull the bottom jaw down and push the pill as far back in the mouth as possible then hold the mouth closed and wait for a lick- that is usually the signal that they have swallowed. Using a syringe to give some water afterwards is recommended to help the pill go down smoothly. The liquids that can be added directly onto food can also be convenient. If your pet realizes something has been added to the food, try and do it with their favorite snack instead (in a chunk of peanut butter, or cheese – but do remember that cheese is very high in fat so it is not recommended to be used with long term medications). Some of the liquid medications we send home are white in color so doing them outside on the grass instead of inside can be a good choice to avoid a mess inside the house.

Administering pet medications can be frustrating and we want to help make the process as easy as possible. Make sure that you ask any questions you have when you are being sent home with medications, and if giving meds at home is too difficult, you can always come in for administration. Please call us if there are any concerns or if you need to be walked through the process over the phone.

by Liz Espejo, AHT