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How to Give Your Pet Medicine

Giving your pet medication is an important, but often tricky, task. If you are struggling with giving your pet medications he needs, check out our tips and tricks listed below to help ensure that he takes his medication properly.

Pills and Hard Chews

Whether it is pain medication post neuter or his monthly heartworm medication, sometimes a dog just does not want to cooperate when it comes time for his next dose. For heartworm chewables, first try using the “Chaser Treat” technique. To begin, give your pet a treat (if you often require your pet to perform a trick before receiving a treat, have him do so like normal to help curb his suspicion). Praise him and follow up with his heartworm chew. Hopefully, your dog will be primed to believe that this is a treat, especially if your training sessions normally involve multiple treats. However, if you are giving your dog a pill, you want him to avoid chewing it if possible. The first technique to employ with a pill is to disguise its taste with a pill pocket. Pill pockets for both dogs and cats are available at all major pet supply stores.  Pill pockets can prove to be a very simple, yet effective way to trick your pet into thinking that their medicine is a tasty treat.

If the techniques described above don’t work, it is time to turn to food. This strategy is likely to be your pets favorite because it involves hiding a pill or chewable in highly appealing foods. Soft foods such as butter, peanut butter, cream cheese, and spreadable cheese (human or canine variety) work well for pills that need to be swallowed without being chewed. For chewable meds, you may use the spreads mentioned above or deli meats such as salami or liverwurst to mask the scent and flavor. Unfortunately, this technique may not be 100% successful. Some pets may realize what is happening and eat the good-tasting food and spit out the treat. If this is the case, don’t despair. Wait 30 minutes to give your pet time to forget and try with a different food or technique.

Liquid Medicine

Oral, liquid medications often come in either pre-portioned, multiple syringes or bottles where you draw up a certain quantity into one syringe. Delivery techniques do vary depending if you are giving the medication to your dog or cat so we will cover those separately.

Dogs – Draw the medication into the dropper or syringe and hold it in one hand. Stand/kneel to the side of your dog. Place one hand behind your dog’s head to stabilize it. You can gently stroke the back of the head to distract your dog. Using your other hand, insert the tip of the dropper or syringe into the side of your dog’s mouth. Try to stay close to the back of the mouth (near the molars) and away from the canine teeth (near the front of the mouth). Once the syringe tip is in, empty the medication into the mouth and release your dog’s head. Rub your dog’s throat lightly to encourage swallowing.

Cats – Draw the medication into the dropper or syringe and hold it in on hand. Bring your cat onto a large, stable surface that is about waist level (a table or bathroom counter works well). Scruff your cat with one hand to give you control of where your cat’s head is and it will help immobilize their body. Ensure that your cat is able to support his bodyweight on the counter or table as you scruff him so that he avoids injury. If you are unfamiliar with how to scruff your cat, practice a few times so that both you and your cat become familiar with the sensation. If your cat becomes bothered by the practice, pet them to sooth them and wait about 15 minutes before returning to the task. Once you have scruffed your cat, use your other hand to insert the tip of the syringe into the side of his mouth. Try to stay close to the back of his mouth (near the molars) and away from the canine teeth (near the front of the mouth). Once the tip is in, empty the medication into the mouth and release your cat’s head. Rub his throat lightly to encourage swallowing.

If your pet is strongly resistant or becomes fearful (growling or hissing), take a break. Your pet may become agitated from your initial approach and as a result may harm you or even himself in the process. It is best to wait until your pet calms down before making another attempt. In the meantime, enlist help from a friend or family member to help restrain your pet or distract them with affection during the technique of your choice. Hopefully you find these tips useful in ensuring that your pet takes their medications promptly and with as little fuss as possible.

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