The ABCs of Medicating Your Pet

The ABCs of Medicating Your Pet

Do you dread giving your pet their medication? Is your pet expert at spitting out pills? Successfully medicating your pet is key to their health and happiness, despite your pet begging to differ. Read on to learn the “pet medication ABCs” from Ambleside Animal Hospital, and you’ll soon have the most challenging pets eating from your hand.

A = Avoid pet medication errors

Prevent pet medication errors by getting the basics of your pet’s medication right. Always ensure that you understand why your pet’s medication was prescribed, and how the medication will help your pet. When we prescribe medication to your pet, a team member will meet with you to go over all the details. We will review your pet’s medical history, although we also ask that you bring a list of your pet’s medications, so we can check drug interactions, for another layer of security. Remember to include medication that was prescribed at other clinics, by referral specialists, or by emergency services, as well as any over-the-counter medications. Always check with our team before giving your pet any non-prescription medications, vitamins, or supplements.

When we prescribe medication, ask questions such as, “Do I give this to my pet with or without food?” and “Is this given in the morning or at night?” We welcome your questions if you have concerns about your pet’s medication. Never hesitate to advocate for your pet, to help safeguard their medical care.

B = Be careful when handling pet medications

Prescription medications may not help your pet if they are not handled properly. Always read and follow pet prescription label directions, such as “Keep Refrigerated” and “Shake Well.” Have a plan for proper storage of your pet’s medication in the event of a power outage or other emergency. In your home, store pet medications in a high cabinet or other designated location away from pets and children. Some pet medications are flavored and chewable, so pets will gladly eat all the medication, if they can reach it. Also, keep pet medications in the original packaging or bottle, because they may need to stay sealed until use, and they will definitely need to remain child-proof. Always store pet and human medications separately—unfortunately, people often give their own prescription medications to their pets, or they accidentally take their pet’s prescription. Contact with some pet medications can cause sensitivity problems, so check whether you should wear gloves. Also, check with us before opening capsules or crushing pills.

C = Count the ways to administer pet medications successfully

Some pets are experts at avoiding medication. Try the following if you are having trouble getting medication into or onto your pet.


  • Hide-n-pill — Disguise medication in pill pockets, soft cheese, lunch meat, peanut butter (without xylitol), chicken baby food, hot dogs, or marshmallows. Check with us about food allergies, and to ensure the medication is compatible.
  • Do not open wide — For liquid medication, fill the syringe or dropper with the medication up to the level we have marked, and dispense the liquid slowly into the corner of your pet’s mouth. Squirting too quickly into the center of the mouth may cause your pet to cough.
  • Use the sweet spot — For cats, dispense topical medication onto the skin at the base of the head, where they cannot reach to lick. For all pets, part the fur sufficiently to get topical medication on the skin.
  • Direct approach — If your pet tolerates the direct approach, place your hand over their muzzle, and gently apply pressure behind the canine teeth. Place the pill as far back into your pet’s mouth as possible, close their mouth, and stroke their throat to encourage swallowing.
  • Pop that pill — Never risk getting scratched or bitten. If needed, ask for a “pill popper” that you can use rather than your hand. We can often compound a pet medication into topicals or transdermal gels, and sometimes we can administer medication as a long-acting injectable.
  • Multi-pronged attack — Suspicious pets may take medication that is hidden in a treat more readily while distracted—on their walk, for example. Or, try smearing medication mixed in peanut butter on your pet’s paw—they will likely lick it off. Wily pets may force you to switch up your approach frequently.

Medications can’t help a pet who refuses to take their medicine. Call Ambleside Animal Hospital for help and tips anytime you have trouble medicating your pet. Follow our ABCs, and see that medicating your pet can be easy and safe.