Uh-oh. Dread fills the pit of your stomach as the veterinarian hands over your cat’s medication. Not only does your cat have a chronic condition that requires lifelong treatment, but also the medication is in the most challenging form—pills. You vividly remember the last time you attempted to give your cat a flea-prevention pill. 

She won. 

And, after the wrestling match, you ended up taking more medications than she did after your trip to the urgent care center for a nasty bite. 

At our hospital, we understand the challenges of medicating uncooperative pets—it’s our job to ensure every pet, no matter how feisty, receives her medication. As your veterinary team, we want to help you properly medicate your pet without bloodshed, tears, or desperate pleas for cooperation. You’ll want to bookmark this blog post for future reference so our tips on administering every form of medication are always handy. 

Tip #1: Tame your cat with a towel

Many cats turn into tornadoes of fury when they are medicated, no matter whether the medication is eye or ear ointment, or for oral administration. Some cats may not become upset when they are treated, but they’re still rather squirrelly and can easily slip through your grasp. Calm your cat, remove her weapons, and prevent her escape all at once with a towel wrap. Inefficient handling that promotes struggling can unsettle the most laid-back cat. Towel wraps are simple to perform and a wonderful help for calming your cat’s anxiety, and your own. Follow these steps:

  1. Lay a large bath towel on a flat surface.
  2. Place your cat in the center of the towel and snugly wrap each end over her back, ensuring her feet are tucked in and only her head is exposed.
  3. Tuck her body under your non-dominant arm, with her rear placed firmly and closely against your chest, which will help her feel safe and secure and allow you to easily administer medication.
  4. Using your non-dominant hand, tip your kitty’s head back for oral medication, or expose each ear or hold an eyelid open for treatment.

Your cat will feel much less threatened if you don’t come directly at her face with a medication, and be easier to handle if you administer treatments from behind her head. 

Tip #2: Trick your pet with a treat

Dogs and cats are notorious for sniffing out medications in food, so try a little trickery on too-smart-for-their-own-good pets. Offer your pet a plain treat first, followed by the medication disguised in a pill pocket, meatball, cream cheese, peanut butter, or spray cheese. Follow the medication quickly with another plain treat. Keep each treat the same in this routine, except for the one with the medication. 

You can also use the line-dot-line method with soft treats. Create a line of spray cheese or a similar substance leading to a dot containing the pill, followed by another line of the plain treat. Ideally, your pet will follow the trail so quickly, she won’t notice the medication.

Tip #3: Deploy distractions

For oral medications, try distracting your pet from the pill in your hand, which should be disguised as a treat, by asking her to perform her favorite trick. Toss her the “treat” for a job well done, and she’ll happily gobble down her reward. 

If you have several pets at home, use competition to your advantage, and make your pets focus on treats you are waving in front of their noses. While they all vie for a front-row seat, ensure the pet who requires medication receives the correct “treat.” Many pets will scarf down their tasty morsel to prevent their furry siblings from snatching it.

You also can use distractions for eye and ear medications. For dogs, almost every unpleasant task is easier to tolerate with a stuffed Kong. Cats may prefer a dish of meaty baby food or tuna instead of a toy loaded with peanut butter or spray cheese. Have a family member hold the tempting treat in front of your pet to distract her from your ministrations. 

Tip #4: Check into compounding medications

If you cannot get a pill into your cat or dog without a struggle, ask us about compounding options. With the aid of a compounding pharmacy, we can prescribe medications in various forms, such as capsule, liquid, or transdermal (i.e., medication that can be rubbed into an ear flap), depending on what works well for your pet. Liquid medications can also be flavored to entice your pet.

 Fun fact—Wedgewood Pharmacy swears that cats prefer the flavor combination of “chicken marshmallow” over all others. 

Tip #5: Praise with positive reinforcement

Rewarding your pet for her cooperation goes a long way toward avoiding future struggles. Break down medication administration into small steps, rewarding your pet for each achievement. For example, try this method for administering ear ointment: 

  1. Touch the ear gently, rewarding with praise and a treat.
  2. For dogs with floppy ears, flip the ear over.
  3. Wipe the inside of the ear flap with a cotton ball, avoiding the deeper portion of the ear.
  4. Wipe out the crevices of the ear folds. 
  5. Apply a small amount of your cleaner to a cotton ball, using it to wipe out your pet’s ear. Use only a tiny amount, since the liquid will be chilly and may startle your pet.
  6. Once the ear is clean and dry, apply your medication. Many pets do not appreciate this part, as the ointment or drops are cold and wet.
  7. Ensure you follow each step with plenty of praise and treats to help reduce your pet’s unease.

For any questions about giving your pet medication, the side effects to watch for, and alternative treatments that are available, call us. We will find a way to ensure your furry friend receives her medication and her illness is properly treated.