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Understanding the Medication Instructions
The first part of successfully administering medication to your dog is making sure that you understand the instructions for giving the medication. These instructions include route of administration (for example, by mouth, into the ears, or into the eyes), dosing frequency (such as once daily, every 12 hours, or every 8 hours), duration of treatment (for example, 7 days, until gone), and other special considerations (for example, give with food, follow with water).
Sometimes there is flexibility with medication instructions; for example, some medications can be given “as needed,” or a twice-daily dosing schedule may be adaptable to once-daily dosing. However, for other medications, the recommended dosing instructions need to be followed closely. Before you leave your veterinarian’s office with a new medication, be sure to address any concerns regarding the medication with your veterinary team. For example, if your work schedule does not permit dosing every 8 hours, your veterinarian may be able to recommend a different medication that can be given less frequently. Ask about your pet’s expected response to the treatment.
It is very helpful to write a medication schedule for your pet on a calendar, including the date and time that the medication needs to be administered. This will help you to (1) avoid forgetting to give a dose and (2) remember when the course of treatment has been completed. It is also very important to follow all label directions carefully. Improper storage (such as keeping a refrigerated medication at room temperature) can affect the safety and effectiveness of medication. Additionally, it is important to give the medication for the correct length of time. Complications can occur if antibiotics are not given for the full duration of recommended treatment; in addition, some medications, such as corticosteroids, cannot be discontinued without causing illness, so it is very important to give medications as directed. If your pet experiences any medication-related side effects, contact your veterinarian promptly for advice before adjusting a dosage or discontinuing the medication.
If you’ve never given a dog medication before, it can be difficult to know what method will work best. Some dogs take pills very readily if the pill is hidden inside a treat (such as liverwurst, a small piece of soft cheese, peanut butter, or cream cheese) or given with a small amount of canned food. Pills can also be crushed (or capsules broken and emptied) and mixed with a small amount of canned food. However, your dog must eat all of the food right away to ensure receiving the full medication dose. Also, some coated pills and capsules have a bitter taste if the capsule or the coating is removed. If the medication makes the food taste badly, your dog may refuse to eat it. Before choosing one of these options, ask your veterinarian if the medication can be given with food (including dairy foods such as cheese). You will probably know after the first or second dosing whether this method will work.
If you must give your dog a pill directly by mouth, here’s a method that usually works. This technique takes practice and may require more than one attempt to get your dog to swallow the pill. If your dog is not used to having your hands in or near his or her mouth (as with toothbrushing, for example), gradually introduce your dog to this by stroking your dog’s muzzle and chin gently for a few moments. If you think your dog may try to bite you, do not attempt this technique; ask your veterinarian about alternative medication options, such as the following:
Administering Liquid Medication
Some pet owners prefer liquid medication because administering it does not require placing your fingers inside your dog’s mouth. However, your dog may refuse to swallow the liquid and, if your dog is very large, the amount of liquid required may be so large that it is not practical. Here are some tips for administering liquid medication:
If you are unable to administer medications to your dog, here are some suggestions that may help: