When your pet is sick, you know it often needs medication. But pets, like babies, don't know that the pill you want them to take will help them. They just know it smells funny and they don't want it.
Here are five tips to help get your pet to take the medicine.
Ask the veterinarian or pharmacist if the liquid medicine can be given with food. If the answer is yes, then your easiest path is to mix it with canned food. First give your hungry pet a small amount of canned food without the medication. It's important that the pet nibble on the food and see that there's nothing amiss.
Next, while the pet is still hungry, mix the medication in a small amount food and present it. Repeat as necessary to get the entire dose down. Never mix the medication with the full meal. If the pet decides not to finish the meal, the dose will be wasted - and you won't know how much of the medication was consumed. It's better to be patient and feed your pet in small doses.
If the pharmacist says the medication cannot be taken with food, you need a syringe or a dropper to get the liquid down your pet's throat.
Before you call your pet in, be sure to have the medication and any other materials you'll need ready. Keep a cheerful tone in your voice so the pet doesn't sense your stress or hesitation. Position your pet where it cannot scoot away, perhaps having a dog sit with his back against a wall or chair - or a cat on your lap.
Once the pet is in position, use one hand to gently open the pet's muzzle from above, tilting back the head slightly. Use your other hand to insert the syringe or dropper between the cheek and back teeth. Slowly squeeze the medication so the pet won't choke. Try to keep your pet's mouth closed for approximately 30 seconds or until you see it has swallowed. If your pet is being obstinate, stroke its throat gently or blow on the face. Be sure you conclude the session with praise and perhaps a treat so your pet will not associate medication with a bad experience.
As with liquid medication, you'll want to start by determining if the pills can be given with food. If so, line up a variety of foods to disguise the pills. Look for foods that easily wrap around a pill, have a strong flavor to hide the taste of medicine and foods that your pet likes. Consider using butter or peanut butter, cream cheese, liverwurst and canned pet food. Be sure to vary the food so it doesn't lose its "special treat" appeal.
Just like giving liquid medication, administer it when your pet is hungry - and give just a small amount at first. The pet will gobble it down hungrily, looking for the next bite. Again, do not put the pill in a full meal in case your pet doesn't finish it.
If your pet is on to you, and won't eat pills wrapped in a treat, then you will have to insert it deep in its throat. Have the pill ready to administer and call your pet to your side. Again, greet the pet in a happy voice and position it so it cannot get away. Open the pet's muzzle from above and tilt up the head so your pet is looking at the ceiling.
Open its lower jaw with one hand and insert the pill as far back as you can go without causing the animal to gag. Encourage the pet to keep its mouth closed. Lower its head and stroke the throat to encourage swallowing. It's important to remain calm and confident during this process. If you're uneasy, your pet may become anxious or uncomfortable. Praise your pet and present a real treat.
If medications do not come in a format that your pet likes, ask the pharmacist about compounding - or mixing the drugs in some format the pet will take. Compounding pharmacies can add flavors to liquid medications. They can even make convenient sized capsules that your pet can tolerate. Compounding also helps if your pet is allergic to one component of the medication as the offending agent can be left out.
Dropper and syringes were mentioned above as tools to use with liquid medication. For pills, there is now something called a pill gun. Instead of sticking your hand deep into your pet's throat, you insert the pill gun deep into the throat. You control the release of the pill. This can often be more comfortable for the pet and owner.
Administering medication effectively takes practice. As you get better at it, your pet will learn to relax. It will learn that the medicine is not going to hurt. So even when there's no medication to administer, practice by putting a small amount of water into a syringe and giving it to your pet.
Keep these simple tips in mind next time your pet needs medication, and you'll significantly reduce the stress and aggravation of both you and your furry friend.
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