The love for our pets drives us to do the best for them. When we fall short, we sometimes think, “What if I look like a bad pet owner?”

When your veterinarian tells you your pet requires prescription medication, open up. Tell them the challenges of medicating your pet. Many pet owners have the same struggles, so the team at Mill Creek Animal Hospital wants to help. 

Alternatives are available for medicating your pet

Many medications come in different forms, so ask us about alternatives. For example:

  • Some pets prefer liquid to pills, or capsules to tablets, so ask if the medication comes in a particular form.
  • A compounded formula may be available to suit your pet.
  • Some antibiotics are available as long-lasting injections that can replace oral medication.
  • Empty gelatin capsules, which can be purchased from many pharmacies, may help. If your pet is taking multiple medications, a powder or granular drug, or a bitter tasting tablet, place the medication inside the gel capsule.

Although we want your pet to feel better, our primary concern is safety for you and your pet. Let us know If you feel at risk of being bitten or scratched by your panicked pet, and we will work with you to find an alternative medication form.

Let us demonstrate proper techniques with your pet

Technical skills are easier to learn in person. We can teach you the following strategies for pets who resist being medicated.

  • A “kitty burrito” or towel wrap These restrain your cat or small dog humanely for safe medicating. 
  • A “pill popper” or “pill gun” These tools are commonly used to give tablets and pills to cats and dogs manually. However, if used incorrectly, a pet can aspirate their medication, bite down on the tool itself, or taste the bitter medicine.

Stay calm while medicating your pet—and carry on

Our pets are incredibly aware of our emotions, and can sense your stress, so try to stay calm when you are trying to medicate them. Follow these tips:

  • Keep yourself neutral Breathe normally.
  • Relax Tension will rub off on your pet, and may also cause you to make erratic, potentially startling movements.
  • Change the picture Medicate your pet in a different room where they have no bad memories.
  • Remember — If you are unsuccessful, remember that you can quickly replace your pet’s medication, but rebuilding your pet’s confidence and trust will take time. You can try again later.

Mill Creek Animal Hospital’s pet medication tips

Here are our tips that will help you successfully medicate your pet.

  • Oral medicine When it comes to oral medication, you may have to bring out the high value goodies, especially if your pet has had previous traumatic experiences. A full meal is often recommended with oral medication—could there be a more perfect happy ending?
    • Coat the pill or capsule in strong-smelling foods Try masking the smell and taste from your pet’s powerful senses with common high-value favorites such as peanut butter, spreadable or cream cheese, canned foods that you can mold into meatballs, or bread. If you choose a food that is too sticky, add flour to form a pliable dough that can be molded around the pill.
    • Use the sandwich method — Follow these steps:  
      • Make round-shaped treats from the foods above, with one treat containing the medication. 
      • Get your pet excited about the opportunity for a fun treat with encouragement and anticipation.
      • Feed two to three small “dummy treats” in quick succession, followed by the treat containing the pill, and then another dummy treat or two.
      • Time your actions so that as your pet finishes the last treat, they can see the next one. Don’t give them time to think!  
  • Ear and eye medicine — It’s all in the presentation here, because pets can be incredibly head shy, especially when they are in pain. Be patient, and use a firm but gentle touch.
    • Stand or sit perpendicular to your pet, if possible. Approaching them head-on is threatening. The affected side should be the farthest from you, for easy reach.
    • Ask a helper to offer a lickable distraction, such as a Kong, to help keep their head facing forward.
    • Stabilize the heel of your hand against your pet’s head to prevent poking their eye or ear with the applicator.
    • Quickly give them a high value reward.

  • Topical medication Pets may react negatively to the tube or bottle, or the medication’s burning or tingling sensation. Use these tips:
    • Apply liquid medication saturated in a gauze square, because spray nozzles can startle sensitive pets.
    • Use a cotton ball to apply ointment, because tube tips can accidentally bump skin lesions and hurt sensitive areas.
    • Ensure you allow enough contact time for the medication to be absorbed.

If you are using a new location, feed your pet small dummy treats a few times throughout the day so they form a positive association with the new spot. 

Always end on a positive note—this could be a walk or playtime if your pet is well enough, or a long-lasting treat like a Kong or puzzle toy if they are house-bound. 

Do you need help with your pet’s medications? Contact Mill Creek Animal Hospital. Call us if your pet is being difficult, or to make an appointment so we can demonstrate our tips.