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Medicines are intended to enhance and protect the health of our
pets but giving oral medication to companion animals can be a
trying process. Have no fear pet caregivers, there are proven
techniques that will make pilling your pet a more pleasant
experience for everyone involved.
"Choking and poisoning should be the first line of protection
for pets taking medication, and your veterinarian's instructions
should be followed to the letter," states Ms. Patty Hug, Veterinary
Technician III, Veterinary Teaching Hospital, College of Veterinary
Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. "Pet
caregivers should take precaution to avoid pet choking by
administering pills when the pet is in a sternal or standing
position, never while lying down." Also, Hug suggests that if in
doubt, write the medication instructions down prior to leaving your
veterinarian's office, this will help prevent over medicating.
Pills may be given by hand, but a safer technique utilizes a
"Pet Piller". This instrument is made of durable, washable hard
plastic that has a rubber tip on which the pill is placed. "Ever so
gently place the pill end of the piller at the side of the mouth;
the pet may open its mouth, then the piller can be placed at the
back of the tongue, and the pill dispensed by 'injecting' it into
the pet's mouth." Hug says that it is important not to gag the
patient with the piller. Also, close the pet's mouth and hold it's
snout until there is evidence that the pill has been swallowed.
Gently stroking the pet's throat or blowing on its nose generally
makes the pet swallow the pill more quickly. Additionally, be sure
to offer your pet a drink of water for the pill to fully go down
the esophagus; this is especially true for cats.
Hug suggests another method to administer pet medication that
involves 'hiding' your pet's medication. "Some pets need to have
oral medicine hidden in a piece of bread, extremely low fat cream
cheese, squeeze cheese (sharp cheddar is most popular), or canned
food." Hiding oral medicine in a food item entices your pet to eat
the 'treat' while diminishing the smell and taste of the medicine
before it is swallowed. Hug also recommends a popular pill-taking
enhancer called 'pill pockets'. These are specifically formed for
various pill sizes and are flavored to appeal to the most finicky
medication-evading pet, notes Hug. Pill pocket flavors include
beef, salmon, and chicken; they can be obtained at your
"Oral medication should not be given if the pet vomits, or shows
any type of stress; never proceed thinking that the pet is just
being difficult," notes Hug. Pets let us know when something is not
right, so consult your veterinarian if you are not able to pill
your pet due to adverse circumstances.
Follow your veterinarian's oral instructions and the
instructions as they are indicated on the medicine bottle. Some
medications are labeled with a sticker that states "Give with Food"
and this instruction should be followed so that your pet does not
get an upset stomach while taking the medication.
"Never self-medicate pets with human medications," advises Hug.
Only your veterinarian is qualified and knowledgeable to recommend
or prescribe 'human' medications for your pet. Your veterinarian
knows how the medicine will affect your pet in its current
Hug says, "Crushing pills is only reserved for the veterinarian
or the pharmacist to compound the medication into a substance that
will support a 'crushed' pill. If your veterinarian did not state
to crush the medicine, then don't. Many medications work in
different ways, and disrupting the actual pill may cause the
medication to be of no benefit or, diminish the effectiveness of
the medication." Hug notes that capsules and pills in foil packets
should never be crushed.
Your pet's health and well being may be dependent on medicines
prescribed by your veterinarian but your pet depends on you to
administer the medication. Learning pet pilling techniques will
keep you safe and also protect the health of your pet. And
remember, once your pet does take its oral medicine (and a gulp of
water), offer it a pat on the head for comforting reassurance that
all is well.
Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine
& Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University.
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