If your pet develops an illness or injury, do you dread the thought of medicating them almost as much as the diagnosis itself? Pets can certainly be challenging to convince that they must accept pills, liquids, ointments, drops, and injections, whether or not they are full strength. To help ensure your furry pal receives every dose of their medication, use the following tips.

#1: Use positive reinforcement when medicating your pet

To keep your pet from running at the sight of a bottle of eye drops or ear cleaner, ensure every medication experience is positive. Instead of holding your pet down to administer medication, teach them to actively participate. Ask your pet to sit and allow you to touch their ears, eyes, or mouth, depending on how the medication is administered, and then reward them for their cooperation. Take each step slowly, rewarding your pet along the way for good behavior, and soon your furry pal will come running for treats when they see their daily eye drops come out.

#2: Gentle restraint works best when medicating your pet

Forcing your pet to accept medication only makes each subsequent administration more difficult. Gentle restraint works much better than rough handling. For example, rather than forcing your pet’s jaws apart to administer oral medication, gently grasp their muzzle right behind their canine teeth. Slight pressure there will cause your pet to naturally open their mouth, and you can place a pill or liquid medication at the back of the throat. Once you’ve inserted the medication, hold your pet’s mouth shut, and rub their throat or blow in their nose to make them swallow. This action can often be disguised as petting, so make the experience as pleasant as possible for your furry pal.

#3: Use exceptionally high-value treats to hide your pet’s medication

Does your pet immediately start drooling when they hear the rustle of a cheese-slice wrapper? Maybe they come running at the sound of a can of tuna opening. Use your pet’s most treasured treat to transform medication into a delicious snack. Hide the pill inside a chunk of hot dog, or mix oral liquid medication in tuna juice to disguise the taste, and encourage your pet to gulp down their treat and medication.

#4: Make ample use of towels when medicating your cat

If you’ve had to medicate a feisty feline, you’ve likely earned your fair share of scratches. Towels are your friend when it comes to medicating cats, as you can swaddle your pet and restrain their paws without using force. Turn your kitty into a burrito. Wrap them in a towel, leaving only their head free, and administering their ear, eye, or oral medication will be easy. Bundling your pet in a towel also works well for small dogs.

#5: Acclimate your pet to ear medication using cotton balls and gauze

Many pets do not like their ears touched, especially when they’re sore and painful from an infection. Adding cold cleaner or medication to the irritated ear only serves to make your pet more uncomfortable, and dread the process more. To help acclimate your pet to their ears being cleaned and medicated, try starting with a cotton ball or gauze square soaked with ear cleaner, rather than dumping in the chilly liquid. Depending on the type, ear medication may also be applied using this method. 

#6: Trick your pet with plenty of treats

Do your pets believe that all treats should be doled out equally? If so, you may be able to trick your pet into eating their medication hidden in a hot dog or piece of cheese by handing a treat to your other pet. Be careful with this method, however, as your other pet may snatch up dropped medication, thinking it’s a treat. 

You may also be able to trick your pet into eating their hidden medication by sandwiching the cheese-wrapped pill in the middle of several small treats. Start by giving your pet several plain cheese morsels—or whatever treat you choose—and then sneak the hidden medication into the treat line. Finish by following up with another plain treat.   

#7: Discuss different medication formulations that may be easier to get in your pet

If you simply cannot get a pill, tablet, or capsule into your pet, discuss different formulation options with our Loving Family Animal Hospital team. We can typically work with compounding pharmacies to have your pet’s oral medication turned into a smaller tablet, a chewable form, a liquid medication, or a transdermal option that can be applied to the ear flap.

#8: Ask for help medicating your pet

There’s no shame in asking for help medicating your pet—our team of veterinary professionals occasionally calls for backup for tough situations. Ask a friend or family member to help distract your pet for their ear medication, or to hold your pet’s head still while you administer eye drops. If all else fails, you can always bring your pet to our hospital to be medicated. 

Are you struggling to successfully medicate your pet? Talk to our Loving Family Animal Hospital team to discuss different options and find what works best for your furry pal.