Your veterinarian nonchalantly says, “You need to give Fluffy this medicine twice a day for 14 days,” and you nod your head that, yes, you understand the instructions. But you’re already breaking out in a cold sweat and crying on the inside. Medicating pets—especially cats—is not exactly a walk in the park, but we’re here to help. Read on for our top five tips that will help make medicatinging your pet a breeze. 

Tip #1: Read the instructions in the exam room

If we are sending your pet home with medication, a team member will go over the instructions before you leave the office, but you should still read the instructions while you’re in the exam room to familiarize yourself with the specific instructions and come up with questions.

Tip #2: Ask questions

Once you’ve read the instructions and listened to our team member go over the key points, don’t hesitate to ask questions. We medicate pets several times a day every day, so sometimes we forget that administering important medications can be intimidating for pet owners. If you don’t understand the dosage, timing, or actual administration, speak up. We want to ensure you’re comfortable before you leave our office. 

Tip #3: Request that your pet’s first dose be administered in the office

This tip serves two purposes: First, your pet starts her medication right away, with no effort on your part, and second (and more importantly), you can watch how we administer her medication.

Prescription medication can be given in different forms; for example, if your pet has an ear infection, all her medications may not require topical administration in her ear. She likely will need one prescription applied directly into her ear, but she may also require oral antibiotics or steroids. 

Pay close attention to how ear and eye meds are administered, and to whether multiple medications should be given in a specific order. Some medications require time to pass between dosages. This information should be printed on the label, so always read the label before medicating your pet. Failure to follow the label instructions can result in prolonged illness, and may contribute to larger problems, such as antibiotic and parasite resistance.

Tip #4: Request to have your pet’s medication compounded

Unless your pet willingly eats anything you offer—Labrador retrievers, we’re looking at you—administering a capsule or tablet orally can be daunting. Ask if your pet’s medication can be compounded into a tasty liquid, which you can put directly into your pet’s mouth, or, in some cases, in her food. This is especially helpful for cats, rabbits, ferrets, and other exotic pets. 

Compounding will slightly increase the cost of medications, but you and your pet will benefit if the medication is easier to administer. Tablets and capsules can be made into liquids, with flavors such as tuna, bacon, watermelon, and cheddar cheese, that will satisfy most palates. Some pharmacies also can compound medications as chewable treats or melt-away tablets. 

Tip #5: Use yummy treats

There is no shame in bribing your pet to medicate her. Hiding oral medication is an old trick, and some readers may remember when heartworm prevention, which was not then formulated into a meaty block, had to be given daily. That’s when most dog owners became skilled at hiding meds in their pet’s food.

If your pet needs an oral medication, try masking it in her favorite people food, such as:

  • Hot dogs
  • Cheese cubes or Easy Cheez 
  • Peanut butter that does not contain the sugar substitute, xylitol
  • Marshmallows
  • Lunch meat
  • Cream cheese
  • Meat-flavored baby food

You can use treats with other forms of medications, as well. For example, if your pet needs a topical treatment in her ear, ask a two-legged friend or family member to distract your pet with treats while you apply her medication.

Remember, treatment only works if your pet is medicated successfully. If you are unsure about medicating your pet, let us know, and we will be happy to help.