I’m only trying to help you.

Have you ever uttered those words while trying to give medicine to your pet? Things would certainly be easier if pets could understand our good intentions. Instead, medicating pets can feel like a battle of wills—and claws. Let Otay Pet Vets simplify the process with these secrets to success.

Talk to the veterinarian about your pet

Medication can only work if it can be given. Be honest and open with your veterinarian if you believe you will not be able to medicate your pet, because the prescription may be available in a form that is easier for you to give. For example, if your pet is a master at finding hidden pills, but likes sweet syrup, a liquid formula may work better. Veterinarians often prescribe the most popular or economical medication types first, but are happy to suggest alternatives.

For instance, compounding pharmacies can transform standard capsules and tablets into meat-flavored liquids and tasty treats that are more pet-friendly.

Keep calm and medicate your pet

Expecting a pet to behave as you reach for them with a strange bottle or an odd-smelling treat can be a tall order. Pets are sensitive to their owner’s stress and may react poorly. In contrast, if you are calm and prepared, your pet will have nothing to fear. The following suggestions can help:

  • Ask your veterinary team to demonstrate helpful tips and tricks. 
  • Re-read all directions carefully.
  • Call your veterinarian if you have questions.
  • Have all the materials ready before trying to give your pet their medication. 
  • Allow extra time so you don’t have to rush the process.

Focus on your pet’s comfort and lessen their fear

Pets use body language to communicate, and another animal’s or human’s proximity says a lot. Standing over a pet to give them medication or restrain them can make them uncomfortable. Approaching a dog or cat head-on is also considered rude and threatening, causing most pets to duck or move away. Send your pet a kinder message with these tips:

  • Stop bending and reaching — Medicate small and medium-size pets on a couch or bed. Sit down to medicate larger dogs.
  • Never corner your pet — This will increase fear and can lead to a bite. 
  • Casual approach — Medicate from the side, not face-off style.
  • Start low to go high — Touch a non-threatening or less sensitive area first, like the shoulder or chin, then gently slide your hand toward the ear, face, or eye. If the target area is a foot, begin at the thigh and gently move down.

Disguise your pet’s pills like a master

If your pet can find pills no matter what you hide them in, take your skills to the next level with these tips: 

  • Skip the peanut butter — Avoid foods that have failed in the past.
  • Check with the vet — Find out if the medicine can be given with food, and if any foods could counteract its effectiveness or worsen your pet’s condition.
  • Irresistibility is key Tempt your pet with such popular favorites as cheese spread, cream cheese, paté-formula wet food, or commercial pill treats.
  • A little dab will do Use only enough food to coat the pill because a bulky treat will encourage chewing. 
  • Ask about blank gel capsules — If your pet takes several medications, place several pills or tablets in one empty gel capsule to reduce the number of treats, and calories your pet receives.
  • Shell game Give treats quickly with the medicated treat in between a couple of non-medicated treats. Feed the treats rapidly, so your pet does not have time to think.

Use positive distractions for pet ear, eye, and topical medication

For many pets, being restrained is more frightening than being medicated. Pets can maintain their independence and be still with the use of strategic treats. Try these tips:

  • Use a food-coated spoon to distract your pet and get them to look up, which will make it easier to give them eye drops. 
  • Prevent your pet from licking off topical skin medicine by giving them a lick mat to work on as the medication is absorbed.
  • Use a suction-cup treat holder to help simplify giving your pet medicated baths or ear medication. 

Manual methods and tools for medicating pets

For various reasons, some pets must be medicated manually. Manual methods are safe, convenient, and, in some cases, less stressful for the pet when they are done correctly. The following tools may help you get the job done safely:

  • Pill popper or pill gun — This is a small plastic rod with a rubber tip to hold pills and a plunger end to release the medication. Pill poppers help you deliver medicine without putting your hand in the pet’s mouth.
  • Cat wraps — Difficult cats can be towel-wrapped, a method that calms and confines them, and prevents you from being scratched. Basic “kitty burrito” wrapping requires some practice to get the technique right, so ask your veterinary team for a demonstration. For long-term treatment, commercial cat wraps are available.
  • Oral syringes — A syringe of water can be given after liquid medication to help make your pet more comfortable and improve the effectiveness of the medication.  You should administer oral medication in your pet’s cheek pocket, where it can slide to the back of their mouth and bypass their taste buds.

Understanding your pet’s preferences and needs will help make medicating them an easier process. If you need further guidance, schedule an appointment with Otay Pet Vets for one-on-one coaching with you and your pet.