Tips for giving pets medication at home can save time and unnecessary trips to the vet.
Many pet medications now come in palatable formulations. Luckily, dogs often accept these tasty tablets just like a treat. Cats might accept these mixed into their food or simply eat them as a treat. Consequently, careful storage of palatable medications is required to avoid pets overdosing themselves!
Try mixing medication which does not have a strong taste into food. Tablet crushers make a fine powder, which is more difficult for pets to spit out of their food. Check the medication label and datasheet. Some medications need giving on an empty stomach.
Medications that can’t be given with a meal can be hidden in a small treat. Special soft treats are sold for this purpose. Alternatively, try small amounts of cheese, chicken, or sausage (but watch that these aren’t so high in fat and salt that they aggravate the pet’s condition!). Cats may take medications mixed into cream cheese and smeared on their coat.
Dogs can be trained to take tablets! Throw the dog two treats, then a treat with the tablet, then another treat. Most dogs won’t even chew the medication-laden treat!
Liquids can be mixed with food just like crushed tablets. Medications for rabbits, guinea pigs, small pets, reptiles, and birds are often liquids. Mixing into their water is a common way of giving small pets medication. However, it is very inaccurate. It is better to mix the medication with a little water or fruit juice to dilute it, then to give it directly into their mouth.
In some circumstances it may be necessary to dose a pet directly. Desensitising dogs and cats into having their mouths open by rewarding them with treats is handy. Opening the mouth is easier if you tilt their head up. Place the treat or medication on the back of the tongue and follow with water to ensure it isn't caught in the throat.
Wrapping cats and small dogs securely in a towel makes it easier to medicate them. This is particularly useful if there is nobody else to help. Towel wrapping small pets also works.
Occasionally, giving pets medication by injection is necessary. For example, diabetes requires regular injections of insulin. Some owners have made injection time a pleasure by giving their dog or cat a tasty treat to lick from a licki-mat while they give the medication.
These are easier to give if you come from behind. Use one finger and thumb to hold the tube and rest on the top of the head. Use the other hand to support the chin, and pull the lower eyelid down as the drop is released. Practice this at home with saline drops.
Giving pets medication at home is getting easier. New products mean you might not need to give ear drops! There are now single dose products which a vet applies. If you do need to use drops hold the ear flap up, drip the required dose into the ear canal, then massage the ear base for up to 2 minutes. Be careful not to get ear drops in your eyes while treating your pet.
Always give medications as instructed. If these tips on giving medication to your pet at home aren't working please contact your veterinary practice for advice.
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