Friday, 4 March 2011

Can You Give Your Pet a Pill?

Pills seem to bring out the worst in some pets.
Cats, especially, can be extremely hard to get a tablet down. They are have no bite inhibition and can be sharp at all 4 corners when necessary, and every experienced vet will talk about the one they couldn't pill..
Dogs are usually more easily fooled by a pill disguised as a tasty treat, but I've known several who could obviously smell the pill and just nibbled daintily around it.

Food is the most obvious way of getting medicine into a reluctant pet but it's always worth trying the pill by itself first. Some tablets should not be given with food, so you do need to check with your vet whether an empty or full stomach works best for your pet's medication.

Some tablets are 'palatable', but it's usually only dogs who will eat these off the palm of your hand. Cats are fussier but it's always worth just offering a supposedly 'tasty' tablet from the palm of your hand. If this doesn't work, and your cat or dog has a calm temperament and doesn't mind you opening their mouth, then try popping the tablet as far back as possible onto the tongue. Shut their mouth and hold it closed.until their tongue comes out and licks their upper lip. Once they do this, the tablet has been swallowed.

If you have a pet that won't be physically pilled, then you need to remember who has the bigger brain and employ a little cunning. This is the stage where you should think about using food.

A quick word here about splitting or crushing tablets; it's not an option with every tablet so ask your vet first. Some medicines are incredibly bitter and it will be harder to get a pet to take a crushed tablet than an entire one. Some pills contain liquid that can be easily mixed with food but others have a coating that protects the active ingredient from the stomach so it can get it to the part of the gut they work best in; crushing will destroy this. If you want to crush medication, then it's easiest to use the back of a metal spoon, or even a pill crusher from your local pharmacy.

You need a foodstuff that your pet loves, something they don't get every day. Fish often works well for cats; dogs like any meat or even cottage cheese. When your pet needs a course of treatment, make sure they don't get treats or tit bits unless it's medication time, and make sure they are ever so slightly hungry by feeding them  a little less than usual.  Make sure they are in the room and are aware that you have their favourite food while you are preparing their medication.

Prepare a teaspoon of tempting food with the tablet hidden in it. Ideally, you want enough to make a medium sized mouthful for your target animal. Then make up a similar non-medicated amount and pop that down in front of your ravenous pet. As they are finishing this, quickly pop down the spiked portion and they should wolf it down without  a problem. Immediately dish out another 2 spoonfuls of the treat then switch to their regular food, and keep the treat food for the next dose.

If you simply can't get medicate your pet, then ask if there is an alternative preparation of the drug. Some antibiotics now come in the form of a long acting injection that lasts for 7 days and can prevent a lot of stress for both pets and their owners. Your vet should work in partnership with you to sort out a drug regime that  works for everyone, but ultimately it's up to you to get the pill into the patient.

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