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Feature March 2016 Issue

How to Tackle Medication Challenges to a Cat

The very idea of giving medication to a cat conjures up an array of images from funny to sheer dread on the part of the cat owner. Let’s face it: Administering medication to a cat can be chock-full of challenges for human and cat alike. And if the medication has to be given daily, for an indefinite period of time, the challenge becomes that much harder.

Once your veterinarian has prescribed the appropriate medication for your cat and explained how to use it, you can ask for a demonstration on how to administer it. It’s very important to understand how much of the medication to give, how often, for how long and if it should be given with or without food. If you aren’t sure, ask for clarification until you completely understand.

Cats are epicures when it comes to eating, and medication doesn’t always pass their lips unless it’s in a palatable food or treat. You can buy treats for this purpose, or make your own from canned food, cheese, meatballs, etc. Of course, some cats will spit out the pills, but you can outsmart a smarty cat with this trick: Give a treat, a second treat, a pill-spiked treat, and follow that with another treat. The last treat clears the medicine taste and ends on a positive note. Unless it’s a short-term regimen, be sure to include these treats in your cat’s daily caloric intake or you may soon have the problem of obesity to tackle, as well.

If the medication needs to be given without food, you’ll need to use the direct approach. You may need to wrap your cat burrito style in a towel to prevent scratches. Hold your cat’s head, gently tipping it back until the jaw naturally opens. Then using your thumb and ring finger, press on the sides of the mouth (you may need to use your other hand to open the mouth a bit more). Drop in the pill, or use a pill popper, on the back of the tongue. If you’re giving liquid medication, place the syringe on the side of the mouth between the cheek and teeth. Gradually depress the plunger until the liquid is swallowed. Go slowly and never give liquid directly down the throat to prevent the liquid getting into the lungs. Gently massage your cat’s throat to encourage swallowing. Follow this process with praise, petting, or playtime as a reward in lieu of a food treat.

Dr. Karas suggests, “Ask your vet about having the medication compounded into something flavored or into a liquid if that is easier to give, especially for chronic administration.”

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