Many pet owners struggle to medicate their pets orally but are too embarrassed to share their difficulties with their veterinarians. There’s no reason to feel ashamedadministering pills or liquids to dogs and cats is a skill that, with some pets, can require significant planning, technique, and finesse. 

To help your pet’s medication time feel more like a treat than a chore, the Veterinary Medical Center of Indian River County team has compiled a list of their favorite tips and tricks for medicating pets.

#1: Talk to your pet’s veterinary team about medication-related challenges

Whether your pet is squirmy, sneaky, or downright combative, our team can provide effective solutions that eliminate unnecessary stress and frustration. When you explain your pet’s quirks—or your own physical limitations—our caring staff will explore alternative options, such as other medication formulations (e.g., flavored liquids, chewable tablets, or injectables). In some instances, prescriptions can be sent to a compounding pharmacy that can turn the medication into a pet-friendly treat or a non-irritating trans-dermal preparation that releases medication through the skin.

#2: Read and follow the directions on your pet’s medication

The label, along with any additional information on a package insert or printed fact sheet, provides critical information about your pet’s prescription—including the amount, administration frequency, whether the medication should be given with food, and storage instructions (e.g., refrigeration). Following the instructions not only ensures your pet’s safety but also can simplify administration by decreasing unpleasant side effects (e.g., giving some medications with food helps prevent nausea, which your pet may associate negatively with being medicated) and speeding your pet’s recovery so they feel better and more cooperative. 

#3: Use pill treats or soft food to disguise your pet’s tablets or pills

Before wrapping your pet’s medication in a tantalizing treat, contact our team to ensure you can safely use the chosen food with your pet’s prescription and medical condition. For example, some antibiotics cannot be given with dairy (i.e., cheese), while other medications must be given on an empty stomach.

Once you receive veterinary approval, select a treat that is soft, pliable, and strong-smelling. Common pet favorites include:

  • Commercial pill treats
  • Xylitol-free peanut butter
  • Wet or canned pet food
  • Cheese spread
  • Soft cheeses (e.g., cream cheese, single-slice American cheese)
  • Marshmallows
  • Low-sodium hot dog or deli meat
  • Canned tuna

Always use enough food to coat or hide the medication but not so much that your pet must chew—which can reveal the hidden treat. Small portions also ensure your pet isn’t consuming too many extra calories, which can lead to weight gain.

#4: Select a quiet environment to medicate your pet

Medicate your pet in a calm and safe space where there are no distractions or competition from other pets, which can heighten stress and your pet will lose focus. Ensure the space provides your pet with positive emotional value by keeping them there several times a day and offering treats, praise, and attention. This will decrease any medication-related anxiety and make the entire experience more positive.

#5: Acclimate your pet to gentle handling and restraint

Make handling a part of your daily pet care routine that you add to your daily interactions, such as when you’re snuggling on the couch or returning home from a fun walk. Gently touch and handle your pet’s paws, mouth, and ears regularly, offering treats and praise so they will associate these actions with positive experiences. This will also make administering medication less stressful.

#6: Consider pill dispensers for cats and other skeptical pets

Pill dispensers are helpful tools that allow pet owners to quickly and safely give their pets tablets and capsules. You place the pill in a compartment and simply squeeze the device, which releases the pill directly into your pet’s mouth. Pill dispensers are especially helpful for cats and toy breed dogs, pets who spit out pills, and those who try to bite. 

#7: Administer liquid pet medication with care

Liquid medications can be challenging to dose and administer, especially if they are bitter. Familiarize yourself with any supplies (e.g., oral syringes and droppers) and dosing instructions, and then practice without your pet. Once you’re comfortable, using the appropriate syringe or dropper, place the medication in your pet’s mouth near their cheek, and watch to ensure they swallow. Do not administer the medication quickly, which can cause choking or aspiration. If directed, follow the medication with a dropper or syringe full of water and reward your pet for their cooperation with an irresistible treat or their favorite game or toy.

If you’re still struggling to medicate your pet despite these tips, our caring and knowledgeable technical team can provide tailored advice and tips for your pet’s individual needs. We may also recommend a technician appointment to explore various options. We don’t want your pet to miss their medicine and not get better.

For all your pet care needs, day or night, contact the 24/7/365 team at the Veterinary Medical Center of Indian River County