Does your blood pressure spike when your veterinarian says, “Your pet needs daily medication?” Palmer Veterinary Clinic understands your struggle. Check out our seven stress-reducing strategies for medicating your pet.

#1: Don’t be afraid: Express your concerns about medicating your pet

Medicating pets can be a challenge for veterinary professionals, too, so let us know if you have hesitations or questions about giving your pet their medication. We may be able to offer a suitable alternative in a different formula (e.g., a liquid medication if your pet hates pills). Long-acting preparations or injections are available for some classes of antibiotics. Other medications may be compounded to add flavoring, or make the medication into a tasty treat.

Our team is happy to demonstrate techniques that may improve your success, and keep your pet more comfortable. Do not be intimidated about discussing your struggles or previous challenges, because we want you to be safe and successful when medicating your pet.

#2: Calling all pet owners: This is your prescription for peace

What is your mindset before attempting to medicate your pet? Do you feel stressed, intimidated, or pressed for time? Consider how this will affect your pet—and your success.

  • Take a mental chill pill — A relaxed frame of mind will show your pet that this is no big deal.  
  • Prioritize comfort and confidence Missed or damaged doses can be replaced, but your pet’s trust will take a lot longer to rebuild. 
  • Address the energy in the room — Try medicating your pet in a different area of your home that they will not associate with previous medication battles.

Medicating your pet may be necessary for their health, but you must develop a casual energy about the process to be successful. With time and positive encouragement, medicating your pet will become calm and natural. 

#3: Four paws = four hands: Find a pet medication partner

Get a family member or friend to help if the medication will require restraining or distracting your pet. Review your partner’s role in detail before adding your pet. Role-playing without your pet can be incredibly helpful, improve safety, and build confidence.  Encourage your partner to stay calm, because your pet may feel outnumbered and nervous. Always begin any medication session by putting your pet at ease with multiple small treats, petting, or play.

#4: Behind the curtain: Prepare medications away from your pet

Pets are highly observant. If you prepare your pet’s medication or pill treats where they can smell or see them, they will know what’s coming. Prepare all supplies and medications out of your pet’s sight to ensure success.

Always wash your hands after touching medication when you prepare food treats so that no residue from a tablet, pill, or liquid medication contaminates the treat. Your pet then will know exactly what’s inside, and the jig will be up.

#5: Slow and steady: Don’t sneak attack your pet

You may think quick, darting movements will help medicate your pet, but these maneuvers can heighten their stress, and ultimately cause them to scratch or bite out of fear. Instead, move slowly and calmly. Reward your pet at each stage with small food treats—after approaching them with the bottle, lifting their ear, touching their ear with the bottle, for example. Such a gradual process will produce more effective medicating with good associations that will last.

#6: Fake it so they’ll take it: The art of hiding pet pills in food

Wrapping medicine in a tasty treat is surely the friendliest method for medicating your pet, but remember these rules to get it right: 

  • Choose irresistible wraps Wrap the pill in something extra special, like peanut butter, cheese, cream cheese, canned food, or commercial pill treats. You may need to add a bit of flour to make sticky foods pliable. 
  • Camouflage the bitter pill Cover the pill in a thin layer. If the coating is too thick, your pet will try to chew, and may get a taste of the medicine.
  • Reward rapidly Make several similar sized “blank” treats. Get your dog excited with a free treat, or reward them for a simple behavior. Assess whether they chew or swallow the treat, and adjust the size accordingly. Feed two or three blank treats quickly, then your “loaded” treat, followed by another blank treat. Ensure your pet can see the next treat coming while they consume the firstdo not give them time to think. 

Always check with your veterinarian before using a new food to medicate your pet. For example, some medications cannot be paired with dairy products, and some medical conditions can be impacted by high fat foods.

#7:  All for naught? Learn the correct way to manually pill your pet

All the pill-disguising kindness in the world may not win over the most skeptical pets. For those dogs and cats, you should learn how to safely and effectively medicate them manually. You can come by our Palmer Veterinary Clinic for a demonstration, or consult these helpful photo tutorials for cats and dogs. Do not use these techniques on a pet who has a history of biting—contact us for advice on alternative methods or medications. 

We hope that some of these tips will reduce the stress of medicating your pet, but if you have additional questions, need a demonstration, or would like to discuss your pet’s medications, contact Palmer Veterinary Clinic.