Giving Medications - For The Not-So-Healthy Critter

Happy Caturday!

It turns out my boyfriend's dog Diamond, who resides at his parent's house and we are petsitting this weekend, got a nasty ouchie on her leg last week.  Her vet has prescribed clavamox, a common antibiotic, in pill form to help her ward off infection through the injury.  She *hates* it, and is very sneaky about extracting it from whatever food we've hidden it in, spitting it out, and then eating the medicine-free food!  Here's a couple of pictures of the goofball:

Diamond is a German Shorthaired Pointer, a past champion, and quite the diva.

In the interest of Diamond, I'm going to talk a bit about giving oral medications today to our furry friends who happen to not feel so hot.  Since there are many different kinds of medications and methods of administration, I'm only going to cover a few here, but these should be applicable to several different kinds of pets - not just dogs.

First let me point out that some treatments involve vaccines or shots, and should only be given by a professional vet OR under the instruction of one.  I definitely would not recommend giving shots by yourself unless you've had training and are sure about what you're doing.  :)

When it comes to oral medications, you will likely be prescribed either liquid or pills.  Liquid medications might be flavored or might not, and some can be mixed into wet food, whereas some may need to be given straight.  When giving liquid meds, it's important to either keep the syringe you are giving it with very clean or to use single-use syringes.  The droppers that come on the lid do not need to be washed unless you've brought it into contact with food or the animal, in which case a thorough rinsing under tap water will keep contaminants from getting in the medicine.  For small animals, applying the medicine on a cracker, cheerio, or other quickly-edible treat may make things easier.

Pills also usually come with the option to be given with food, which is a huge plus in my opinion!  The common trick is to wrap the pill in cheese or peanut butter, but occasionally your pet will figure that one out (like Diamond did!).  If the pill is a tablet and not a capsule, you may be allowed to cut it into smaller pieces with a pill cutter (check the instructions, first, as some medications are timed release or need to be digested slower), which might mix better into wet food.  Obviously there are special situations that you would not want to hide the pill in a treat, such as if the problem is already causing digestive system problems.  Few smaller animal medications come in pill form, but it is quite common for larger animals like cats and dogs.

If mixing into food or hiding in a treat is not an option, you might have to give the medicine directly.  If your pet is particularly opposed to this, you'll have to take a bit of a more active approach.  When administering to a dog, remember to stay very cheerful and friendly, and give lots of praise.  Back them against something so they can't back away from you, and if someone is helping you have them hold the shoulder area.  Sit with your arm that will NOT be holding the pill closest to them, and use your non-pill hand to ease open the jaws from above.  Do this by applying gentle pressure behind the canines.  Use your pill hand to open the mouth further by pressing gently downward on the bottom jaw, then place the pill as near the back of the tongue as possible.  Don't drop it down their throat or gag them with your hand, though, just place it on the tongue.  Next, close their mouth and hold it down in a normal position until they swallow.

The idea is pretty much the same for cats, except you will need to use your elbow or a friend to hold them in place while giving them their medicine.  The ribcage is your center of control, but don't squeeze hard or you risk hurting them.  When using a dropper it can be helpful to place it at the side of their mouth and push inward with it gently, so the dropper is the first thing that gets in the cat's mouth, then release the fluid at a reasonable pace to avoid choking them.  Smacking is good, and keeps the liquid medication from falling out of their mouth.  Remember to give lots of praise!

For smaller animals, it's quite common to give medications in the water.  The dosage and method will depend on the medication in question and the animal it's being given to.  Keep in mind, however, that some medicines like tetracycline are light sensitive, so covering the bottle with foil might be a good idea.  Most medicines when given this way will require that the water be changed every 1-3 days to keep it fresh.  Some taste bitter, and depending on the instructions, *might* be able to have some sugar mixed in, but the water will need to be changed every day if so.  To make sure the critter is drinking enough of the water to get the right dose, remove other moist aspects of their diet, but remember to compensate with plenty of other foods to keep their strength up.  Lastly, check with a vet or expert to make sure the medicine is okay to be shared if the animal remains in a cage with other, possibly unaffected individuals.  Antibiotics are usually fine to be shared between small animals in the water, as long as the full course is given, and helps to prevent unnoticed symptoms from becoming worse in cagemates.

Common Medications
Here are some common medications that might come up and some general facts about them.  Because every pet is different, always follow the directions on the product and the advice of a veterinary professional.

Clavamox:  Amoxicillin and Clavulanate work together in this name brand antibiotic to ward off infections in dogs and cats.  It is by prescription only, and comes in pill or liquid form.  Nausea can be counteracted by giving food first.  Diarrhea is common and should be addressed with your vet if severe.

Baytril: I have only used enrofloxacin, or Baytril, for rodents before, but I believe it's also prescribed for a wide variety of other pets.  Baytril is another antibiotic, but should not be given to rodents under 3 months of age.  It may be effective against mycoplasma, but it's debatable.  Baytril is also available by prescription only.

Tylosin: I've used tylosin for mice too young to give Baytril and had moderate success.  Once again, it may be effective against mycoplasma, but it's still debatable.  Tylosin is an excellent antibiotic of choice for many other animals, too, including most pets and livestock.  It can be found at feed stores, but veterinary advice is highly recommended for dosages and mode of administration (available for in-the-water and injection).

Tetracycline: I recommend Tetracycline, yet another antibiotic, for anyone who comes to me with respiratory infections, abscesses, or general infections in their mice and other rodents.  It is light sensitive and should be given in a foil-wrapped water bottle.  It comes in liquid, powder, and capsule form and can be found in the fish section of most pet stores or in feed stores.  Wonderful instructions for administration to mice are available here:  I believe it can be used for larger animals, too, but I highly encourage seeking vet advice for instructions on how to give it and how much.

Ivermectine/Flea-Tick-Mite Spray:  This applies mostly to smaller pets, as cats and dogs usually receive other common medications to keep the fleas away.  Mites and other skin parasites can come in on bedding, and can cause quite a problem.  There are various sprays to choose from, but it's important to avoid your pet's eyes, freeze incoming bedding, treat weekly including the cage, and follow the instructions on the product you select.  If the spray seems to strongly irritating to your pet, try a spray for a smaller animal.  I believe avian spray is the mildest.

This is a terrific listing of dosages of various medications for rats:  Obviously there are a LOT more meds than this, and I omitted most of the heartworm, flea, and other medications your vet is likely to inform you about on a regular basis. 

Remember to keep your vet's number on hand for emergencies and questions, to always follow their instructions first, and to keep an eye out for side effects including vomiting the medication.  Never quit a round of antibiotics before it's complete - most are 14-30 days.  Quitting early can encourage resistant bacteria to thrive and make treatment much harder.

Okay...obviously there are thousands of books on vet medicine, and this is JUST a bit of an overview for the typical pet owner trying to get their pets to take their medicine.  If you have any questions or corrections about something I've written, catch me at kittuirrel on yahoo or leave me a comment.  I hope you find this useful!  I promise next week the blog will be a bit less technical and a bit more fun.  ;)

PLUS!  I'm starting an animal spotlight on Wednesday.  The first Wednesday of every month will spotlight a species of pet and their care and tidbits.  :)

Thanks for reading!
Miss Mouse

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