Problems When A Pet Needs A Pill

As a veterinarian, finding the right medication for your patients can be tough. First, there are very few drugs approved for pets. A handful exist for cats and dogs, but Guinea pig or turtle medication may be hard to come by.

So often we use human medications. This off-label usage is based on pharmacological studies as well as the experience of colleagues from across the globe.

Although choosing the right medication may sound challenging, it pales in comparison to the job given to the pet owner: administering the drugs.

Enter Beth, who arrived at our hospital with her cute new family member, Mittens. It was Beth’s first cat, so she had a slew of questions prepared for me, and Beth feverishly wrote down my responses.

Throughout this process I observed Mittens from a distance and concluded that she showed signs of illness. I noticed that instead of being inquisitive and playful, she just lay curled up in Beth’s lap. She even sneezed softly a couple of times.

Upon exam, I found that Mittens had a slight nasal discharge, conjunctivitis and a mild fever. I told Beth of my findings and informed her that medication would be needed to help her newfound friend.

“OK, Doc, so what are my options?” asked Beth.

“Well, we could give Mittens a once-a-day antibiotic in tablet form. Do you think you can pill Mittens?”

“If you show me how to do it, I’m sure I can give Mittens a pill. How hard can it be?”

After I demonstrated the pilling technique, Beth smiled and assured me of her imminent success. I applauded her enthusiasm.

The next day, I noticed that Beth and Mittens were listed on our appointment schedule. As she entered the room with her little, furry bundle of joy, I saw the defeat written on her face and several adhesive bandages on her fingers. It seemed that Mittens was not very cooperative.

So we decided to try a liquid antibiotic instead. I special-ordered a fish-flavored suspension to make it more appealing and hopefully less painful.

The results were no different, and Beth was back the next day with a very worried look on her face as well as another bandage or two. She feared the possibility that she would never be able to medicate her new cat.

I offered her the option of a rub-on formulation – no pilling, no liquid, just placing the cream on Mitten’s ear and rubbing it in until absorbed. I assured her of the ease of the transdermal remedy, but this time Beth humbly declined and begged for me to administer an injection. I gave Mittens an antibiotic shot that lasted 14 days, and Beth was very happy.

The adventures of medicating a cat have been well-documented since the dawn of veterinary medicine.

Mittens was a little kitten weighing no more than two pounds, but when it came to medication, she was all teeth and claws. Though domesticated, she definitely had a wild side.

Pet tip: Consult with your veterinarian when it comes to medication. Know all your options and be realistic about your ability to administer the meds.

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