Monday, Sept. 26, 2011
Chattapets: Many ways to give pills to pets
This photo courtesy of Janet Winikoff shows Humane Society of Waterville animal care technician Susan Wyman as she attempts to give shelter cat Birch a pill Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2011, in Waterville, Maine. Wyman is using a pill syringe to administer the pill quickly. There is no question cats are harder to medicate than dogs. Many dogs, especially bigger ones, appear to inhale their food, so they barely notice a little medicine. Cats are more likely to chew and bite down on a pill, spit it out and leave it behind. (AP Photo/Janet Winikoff)
By SUE MANNING
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Giving pills to your pet may be more traumatic for you than the animal, but it doesn’t have to be.
There are many ways to get the job done. You can hold a small dog or cat like a football or a baseball; wrap the cat like a burrito; try decoys and disguises; or arm yourself with squeeze cheese.
Whatever you do, “Be cool, calm, collected and quick,” said Janet Winikoff, director of education for the Humane Society of Vero Beach and Indian River County in Vero Beach, Fla. She has given pills, injections, liquids and subcutaneous fluids to shelter animals and her own pets over the years.
Administer medications with confidence and the least amount of restraint, she said. “For many pets, the more restraint you use, the more they struggle and become stressed.”
Pet medicines may be in the form of pills, liquid, shots, gels or creams; they can be flavored or smelly; chewable, tablet or capsule; meant to be taken with food or without; big and bitter — or not.
Kim Saunders, vice president of shelter outreach for Petfinder.com, an online pet adoption database, has been giving her 22-year-old cat thyroid pills for years. She just found out there is a transdermal form of the medicine and her cat is much happier, she said. The medicine isn’t a patch, but a cream she puts inside her cat’s ear.
Cats are usually harder to medicate than dogs. Many dogs, especially bigger ones, appear to inhale their food, so they barely notice a little medicine. Cats are more likely to chew and bite down on a pill, spit it out and leave it behind.
Greenies and Pill Pockets are hollow treats made to hold pills and are extremely popular for both dogs and cats. But you might have something right in your fridge that can disguise a pill: liverwurst, baby food, cream cheese, string cheese, meatballs, tuna or peanut butter. Rolling a pill in butter will make it easier for the pet to swallow.
Everyone seems to have a trick. One person online suggested crushing the pill, mixing it with something sticky and rubbing it on the cat’s gum. Someone else suggested dabbing a squirt of squeeze cheese on your cat’s paw right after giving a pill so the animal has something else to think about besides the bad taste of the medicine.
For dogs who must take pills for a long time, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals suggests cutting up hot dogs or cheese, or using small chunks of ground beef or chicken, and giving your dog 10 to 20 decoy treats in a row. Do that two or three times a day for several days to prepare your dog before sneaking a pill into one of the bites.
Most vets will tell you to hold the pet’s lower jaw in one hand and upper jaw in the other and lift the animal’s head toward the ceiling before popping the pill in its mouth. Easier said than done, but there are any number of online demonstrations. Cornell University — http://partnersah.vet.cornell.edu/pet/fhc/pill—or—capsule — has a cat video and Washington State University — http://www.vetmed.wsu.edu/cliented/cat—meds.aspx — has cat photos.
Ask your vet for a demonstration, and also ask what to do if things don’t go as planned, Winikoff said. “Sometimes you think you’re successful only to find a half-dissolved pill on the carpet several hours later. Do you re-administer? Wait? Try another method?”
To avoid giving an animal the wrong medication, Winikoff suggests a checklist of “five rights”: Right patient, right drug, right dosage, right route, right time.”
Maria Ramirez, director of animal care at the Vero Beach shelter, prefers cheese cubes, but said the most important thing is to massage the animal’s throat to make sure the pill goes down properly and the pet doesn’t choke.
If all else fails, you can go to a compounding pharmacy where they will turn pills into flavored liquid that can be mixed with a pet’s food.
Most customers are concerned about making the medicine tastier for their pets, said Milo Sanchez, the compound technician at Paseo Pharmacy in Pasadena, about 10 miles east of Los Angeles.
He adds chicken or fish flavor to liquefied pills for pets, then puts the solution in eye droppers, he said.
Compounding a two-week supply of pills costs about $50, he said, noting that not all medicine can be transformed.
Another thing to know: The Cornell website points out that “foaming at the mouth after giving pills or capsules is not a cause for alarm. Some medicines leave a bitter aftertaste, causing your cat to salivate. Coating the medicine in peanut butter may help to disguise the bitter taste and eliminate the excessive salivation.”
The educational staff at Drs. Foster & Smith, the catalog and online pet supply retailer, posted a pilling how-to on its website and advised against mixing a pet’s medicine with a whole meal, because your pet may not eat it all and you will never know how much it got.
They also recommended keeping a cat’s nails trimmed and wrapping it in a blanket or towel (the burrito look) before administering a pill. Blowing gently on your cat’s nose is likely to make it lick its nose, then swallow, they wrote.