Everyone agrees that a pet’s medication is important, but many owners fail to give their pet’s entire prescription. In one study, only 44 percent of pet owners completed a 10-day antibiotics course in the appropriate time frame. Chatham Animal Clinic knows that for many of the remaining 56 percent, those results were not from a lack of effort, but a struggle to medicate the pet. Let’s take a look at some common medication challenges pet owners face, as well as some solutions.

Question: My pet needs long-term medication for a chronic condition, but I don’t think I can give them pills every day. Also, they try to bite me when I give them liquid medicine orally. What can I do?

Answer: Alternative formulations are available for many drugs and medicines. Compounding pharmacies commonly convert veterinary medications into flavored liquids, tasty chewable treats, and transdermal applications that absorb through the skin. Although compounding can be expensive, many owners happily pay the cost to avoid struggling with their pet. 

If you let us know your pet’s preferences, we can make more suitable recommendations. For example, if your pet has been prescribed an antibiotic or anti-nausea medication, we may be able to change the drug, and reduce the daily dosing (e.g., twice or three times daily to once daily), or eliminate the need for an oral medication entirely with a long-lasting, single-dose injection.  

If you ever feel unsafe medicating your pet, call our Chatham Animal Clinic team for advice. 

Q: My pet always finds the pill, and then eats the food it’s wrapped in. Why?

A: Pill wrapping is an art form that requires a lot of trial-and-error. Let’s begin at the beginning—first, and most important, select a new food you haven’t already used for medication. Always check with your veterinarian when you feed your pet something new, to ensure the food is safe for your pet’s condition and medication. Some of the best pill-hiding foods include:

  • Peanut butter, cream cheese, cheese spread, and American cheese — You may need to mix in a bit of flour to the soft cheeses, to make a pliable dough that can be shaped around a pill. 
  • Canned dog food Paté formula makes the best “meatballs.”
  • Commercial pill-hiding treats — Pill Pockets, for example, work well.

Next, take these steps to hide the pills:

  • Using your pet’s medication as a size guide, mold the food into five or six identically shaped treats. This step is important, because treats that are too large or made of the wrong food will encourage your pet to chew, which you do not want.
  • Give your pet a “free” treat, and watch for any chewing. Modify the treat size as needed.
  • Give treats to your pet in rapid succession, with the pilled treat in the middle, so the final treats chase it down. The goal is to keep your pet so distracted by the machine-gun style treats that they only have time to eat, and no time to think.

Adjust your pet’s meals according to the extra medication treats, to prevent weight gain. For long-term medication, use a low-fat, wet food diet for hiding pills.

Q: My pet needs eye meds, but I can’t hold their head still and get the drops in. What can I do?

A: If no one is available to help, distract your pet with food, such as a spoon lightly coated with peanut butter, or an oral syringe filled with wet pet food, tuna juice, or baby food, ensuring that the baby food contains no onion or garlic. Allow your pet to lick the spoon or syringe and eat. Once they are happily eating, gradually rest your hand lightly on their head, slightly above the intended eye. Raise the syringe or spoon to tilt the pet’s head upward, and release the eye drop. Allow your pet to have a few more licks of the treat for a job well done.  

Q: My dog has a bad ear infection, but they won’t let me anywhere near their ears. Can we try something else?

A: Sometimes the skin of the pinna (i.e., external ear) is so inflamed and painful that another medication is required first, to calm and heal the skin. Options include an oral anti-inflammatory, or a topical ointment containing a soothing steroid. Depending on the nature of your pet’s infection, we may be able to place a one-time treatment inside the ear canal so your pet experiences only one uncomfortable event.

Once your pet’s ears are healed, begin handling their ears regularly, in exchange for treats, so they will cooperate with ear cleaning and medicating. 

Q: Liquid medication is always a disaster, because my pet spits it back out. Help!

A: Liquid medication is typically given incorrectly, leading to messy results. For most dog breeds, gently hook your thumb in their cheek pocket, and deliver the medication in that pocket. The medicine will slide back to the esophagus, instead of traveling over the tongue’s taste buds.

For cats, hold the top of their head in one hand so that your thumb and index finger are at the corners of their jaw, and their lower jaw will fall open slightly. Gently slide in the syringe over the base of the tongue, and deliver the medication.

Chatham Animal Clinic realizes you probably have more questions about medicating your pet. We are happy to discuss your pet’s medication needs and preferences, or you can schedule an appointment, and we will demonstrate techniques that will make administering medication in any form much easier for you and your pet.