Picture this: Your feisty feline needs a pill twice daily to manage his hyperthyroidism, but he still has a great deal of spunk in his old age. No matter how you hold him, or the food you use to hide the pill, your cat is too smart for his own good. He wriggles out of your grasp, sniffs out medication in tuna and cheese, and he chomps down on your finger if you try to stuff a pill down his throat. We’ve all been there—including your Urgent Pet Care Omaha team. Medicating pets can be downright challenging, especially if your patient is a wily cat. To help ensure your furry pal receives their medication properly, our team has listed tips from the pros. The next time your pet needs medication, follow our suggestions.

#1: Have your family veterinarian show you how to correctly medicate your pet

If you’re treating your pet’s eye or ear infection for the first time, you may not know how to correctly apply the medication. Ask your family veterinarian or technician to show you, whether eye drops, ear ointment, topical treatment, or injection, and take a video of your veterinarian demonstrating the correct way to medicate your pet. This will help you when you’re at home and, for example, have completely forgotten all the necessary steps for administering an insulin injection. Ideally, practice before leaving the hospital to ensure you know how to position and hold your pet. Practicing on a stuffed animal, or on your own pet with artificial tears, ear cleaner, or sterile saline, will help your family veterinarian critique your technique and offer valuable tips.

#2: Ask a friend or family member to help medicate your pet

Once your pet sees you heading their way with a bottle of ear ointment or eye drops, they likely take off in the other direction. Ask a friend or family member to hold your pet still while you administer the treatment. They can restrain and distract your pet while you focus solely on getting the correct amount of medication in the appropriate place, rather than half the bottle all over your clothes.

#3: Use distraction tactics when medicating your pet

You can use the same distraction tactics when medicating your pet that parents do with their small children when they receive their vaccinations. Although you can’t hand out suckers and candy, you can use food and treats to trap your pet’s attention. Load up a LickiMat or rubber Kong with canned food, peanut butter, or spray cheese to distract—and reward—your pet for receiving their ear medication, injection, or topical treatment. Some pets are more motivated by toys, so a squeaky toy can be an excellent distraction for them. If all fails, and your pet is not easily distracted, swaddle them in a towel wrap. The towel will not only apply pressure to soothing points on their body, but will also restrain their limbs and hold their head still while you quickly administer medication. Also, a towel wrap reduces the need for excessive restraint and prevents your pet from flailing around, and they likely will be less stressed the next time their medication is due.

#4: Always reward your pet for cooperating while being medicated

Remaining calm and still for potentially unpleasant action goes against your pet’s nature, so always reward them for a job well done. You can use your tasty distraction as a final reward after you’ve administered medication, or you can use a special treat to signal your pet’s treatment is done. Refrain from yelling, wrestling, or man-handling your pet when giving them their medication, which will only terrify them and they will struggle more. Instead, remain calm and comforting, and try to avoid fumbling around, which can make your pet nervous. If necessary, break the medication administration into steps paired with tasty treats. For example, when treating your dog’s ear infection, slowly work up to applying the medication by rewarding your pet after each step, such as lifting the ear, wiping out the ear with cotton, and cleaning the ear.

#5: Ask your family veterinarian for a different formulation for your pet

If you are unable to properly administer your pet’s medication, especially a capsule, tablet, or liquid, ask for a different form. Some pills are too large to easily hide in food, so ask your family veterinarian if the medication can be compounded into a different strength or formulation. Or, if your pet refuses to take any oral medication, your veterinarian can possibly give you a transdermal gel that can be applied to the ear flap. Rather than struggling to medicate your pet, ask your family veterinarian for other options.

When all else fails when medicating your pet, call in the pros. Here at Urgent Pet Care Omaha, our team is skilled in medicating critical patients who must receive their entire medication dose every time, to help save their lives. If your family veterinarian is unavailable, contact our team—we’d be more than happy to ensure your furry pal receives their medication.