Does your pill-hating pet need medication? Don’t panic! Your pet will sense your stress and react fearfully or defensively. Instead, use these tips from the Homestead Animal Hospital team, to set up your pet for successful medicating.

Safety first—Have an honest conversation with us about medicating your pet

Speak to our veterinarians if you cannot safely medicate your pet. The last thing we want is for you or your pet to become injured. Bites and scratches transmit harmful bacteria to humans and can cause dangerous, sometimes life-threatening infections. Please speak to us at your pet’s appointment, or contact us to discuss alternatives.

Find out if your pet’s medication is available in a different formulation

Ask if your pet’s medication comes in a different formula, such as liquid, chewable tablets, or granules. If we do not stock your pet’s preference, ask if the medication can be compounded by an outside pharmacy. While this option can be more expensive, compounding pharmacies can make pet-friendly chews, liquids, and transdermal ointments from your pet’s medication. If your pet is receiving multiple medications, they may be able to compound them together.

Consider how your pet feels when medicating

Routine is important for pets, especially when they are sick. Try to work your pet’s medication schedule around their behavior, and avoid disturbing them while they are eating, sleeping, or hiding. If you must wake your pet, do so gently, and spend a few minutes interacting before administering their medicine. Ensure a positive experience by staying attentive to your pet’s state of health and mind:

  • Do not rush — Allow plenty of time for medicating your pet. If you are hurried, your pet will sense your anxiety, and become uncooperative.
  • Handle with care — Consider any potential pain or discomfort when handling your pet. Support their body gently, so that they feel secure at all times.
  • End on a positive note — Reward your pet with their favorite treats, some toy play, or snuggling, or walk your dog.

Giving oral pet medication with food

Ask your Homestead Animal Hospital veterinarian if your pet’s medication can be given with food, which may counteract the desired effects. Never alter medication (e.g., open capsules, or crush tablets) without veterinary direction, because the changes can affect absorption.

Although most dogs can easily be medicated with food, that is often not the most effective option for your cat. Cats tend to eat tiny amounts of food at a time, and can easily eat around any hidden medication. Additionally, cats can smell medication that is crushed or mixed in with their food, and may develop an aversion to the food altogether.

If you are disguising your pet’s medication in food, try the following techniques:

  • Use a smelly or sticky food such as peanut butter, cheese spread, wet pet food, tuna, or commercial pill treats.
  • Lightly coat the pill. Too much food will encourage your pet to chew.
  • Give your pet a few “free” treats before and after the medicated treat.

Manually medicating your pet

Manual medication can be quick and effective for pets who are unlikely to bite, or must be medicated on an empty stomach. However, incorrect technique can lead to injury, or cause your pet to aspirate the medication to their lungs. Ask the Homestead Animal Hospital team for a medication demonstration during your appointment, or follow these instructions:

  • For pills and capsules:
    • With your non-dominant hand, hold your dog’s upper jaw behind the large canine teeth, or cup your small pet’s head. Tip the head back so the nose is pointing up. 
    • Hold the pill between your dominant thumb and index finger.
    • Gently squeeze behind the canines. The mouth should open. Use a finger of your pill hand to move the lower jaw.
    • Place the pill on your pet’s tongue as far back as you can reach, and close the mouth quickly.
    • Rub your pet’s throat to encourage swallowing. Check your pet’s mouth to ensure they have swallowed the pill, or wait to see if they spit it out.
  • For liquid medication:
    • Keep your pet’s head level to prevent aspiration.
    • Insert the syringe or dropper in the cheek pouch at the side of your pet’s mouth, and slowly release the liquid a few drops at a time. Watch your pet’s throat to ensure they are swallowing. 
    • For large dogs with big jowls, keep the syringe parallel to the teeth, to prevent them from biting down and breaking it.

Whenever possible, ask a helper to restrain your pet. If no one is available, steady your pet against your body, or a piece of furniture, so they cannot back away.

Solutions for challenging pets

Take these extra precautions with pets who may bite or scratch:

  • Cats can be wrapped in a towel or large blanket to restrict their motion, and prevent swatting.  
  • Use a pill gun, which is a plastic and rubber device similar to a long syringe, to deliver pills or tablets without endangering your fingers. 

Some pets are simply not good candidates for oral medication. Never put yourself in danger when trying to medicate your pet. Contact us, so we can assist you and find an alternative treatment. 

Once you know how to medicate your pet, practice “pilling” your pet with treats when they are no longer painful or sick. With positive practice, your pet will be more cooperative. If you need additional help medicating your pet, contact Homestead Animal Hospital.