Giving Medications to your Cat

Dr Woody Dudley, DVM

Medicating our feline patients can be challenging, even for Feline Veterinarians and Veterinary Nurses. It is so important to diagnose feline medical conditions early (find out exactly what the health condition is) in order to minimize unnecessary medications and use only what is necessary. For example, some conditions such as Kidney Disease or certain GI disorders can respond well to food changes alone when diagnosed early.

Giving medications to cats can result in stress. As a result, the stressed feline may avoid their owners at medication time. Besides struggling to avoid the medication, hypersalivation, spitting out pill, and gagging may occur with oral treatments. It is helpful to have a second person that the cat likes to hold or steady the cat against a flat surface such as a table, chair, or bed when giving medication.

Oral Medications:

Many oral prescription medications are available premade in an oral liquid form. Liquid medications are almost always easier to give than pills. Tilt the head upward toward the ceiling at 45-degree angle to prevent the medication leaking and gravitating out of the mouth. Place the dropper or syringe with the oral liquid medication inside the corner of the mouth and give the medication very slowly. Be sure to ask your Feline Veterinarian if a liquid prescription medication is available. Premade liquid prescription medications are commonly used for long term treatments such as seizures, pain, heart conditions, and infections.

Meat or fish flavored prescription oral medications are available. Some pills are available in flavored chewable forms. Medications can be flavored into a liquid form with tuna and chicken flavors by local compounding Pharmacists; we recommend Taylor’s Pharmacy in Winter Park, or Oviedo Pharmacy in Oviedo for this service. Be sure to tell your Compounding Pharmacist that you would like a concentrated dose of small quantity, less than .5 cc if possible, for easier administration. Cats accept small quantities of liquids much better than larger liquid doses. Be prepared to pay a little more for compounding. Ask your Pharmacist for an estimate.

Regular pills can be given directly to the back of tongue. Unless your cat is very cooperative, your fingers may suffer from rubbing against the rough tongue or teeth of your cat. Plastic pill poppers are easy to use, easy to find at pet supply stores, and cheap. Feel free to stop by the Cat Hospital for a demonstration on how to use a pill popper. Plastic pill poppers are ideal for cats that require long term treatment. When using a pill, the smallest pill possible is preferred and easiest to give.

Pills may be easier to give with treats such as pill pockets or Cheese Wiz. Pill Pockets are well accepted and available in various flavors specifically designed for cats. There is a hole in the middle for the pill. The pill pocket is molded to cover the pill. We have had the best results with hickory smoked flavor. Pill pockets are easy to find at Pet Supply stores or through your Feline Veterinarian. Cheese Wiz is a canned spray on snack applied to crackers as an appetizer at parties. Cats love the taste of cheese and it is easy to mold around the pill. Be sure to consult with your Cat Veterinarian that whatever treat that is used to give pills will not cause problems with the disease that is being treated.

There are some new options for difficult cats. Some oral medications can now be given as topical ear medications for applying to the outer tips of the ears. Local Formulating Pharmacists make the medication in an ointment that is absorbed through the skin of the ear tips. Medication for high blood pressure, Hyperthyroidism, and appetite stimulants can be given in this way.

Eye Drops:

Place your feline patient on a flat surface. The head should be tilted upward toward the ceiling. With the eye dropper hand resting gently against the top of the head above the eye to steady the hand, apply the drop to the corner of the eye closest to the nose. After applying the medication, gently close the lids so that the medication will spread evenly over the entire surface of the eye.

Ear Drops:

Place your feline patient on a flat surface with the head in its natural position. Apply 3 drops deep inside the ear canal opening. After applying the ear drops, squeeze the ears gently several times to help the medication distribute deeper into the ear canal.

Subcutaneous Fluid Therapy at home:

Fluids can be given under the skin safely with training by your Cat Veterinarian or Cat Nurse if the cat owner feels comfortable. This type of treatment is reserved for feline patients with Chronic Kidney Disease and dehydration.

Following a demonstration at the Cat Hospital, a bag of fluids with a fluid administration set is dispensed by your Cat Veterinarian. A long thin tube passes from the fluid bag to the pet’s skin. A new 18 gauge clean sterile needle which is changed between uses is placed under the loose skin between the shoulder blades and neck area after applying some rubbing alcohol to sterilize the skin and hair. Pinch the skin while passing the needle so that the cat will feel the pinch instead of the needle entering the skin. Fluids can be given once daily in this manner. After the fluids are given there will be a “hump” which will disappear within 24 hours.

Injectible Medication at home:

Injections at home may be required for Diabetics and Allergy Hyposensitization due to the frequent treatment required. The skin is pinched and raised between the shoulders so the patient feels the pinch more than the injection. Following cleaning with isopropyl alcohol the needle is aimed at 15 to 30 degree angle with the skin, and the needle is inserted. Pull back on the plunger to make sure the needle is not in a blood vessel. Then push the plunger. If blood is aspirated, remove the needle and place in another skin location.

Rectal Medication:

In rare emergency situations such as Epilepsy or Seizure patients, medication can be given through the anus with a rubber tube. Premade medication in a liquid form is given with a syringe attached to a soft rubber tube lubricated with KY Jelly through the anus. Some medications such as seizure medication have been found to work faster this way during an emergency situation such as a seizure.

What do we do for cat patients that are impossible to medicate?

Some cats run in terror from the site any medication. In these situations, a decision must be made whether it will even be possible to treat the patient. Sometimes a decision will need to be made, which is worse, the disease or the stress and difficulty of medicating the cat.

Medicating these cats will involve treatments at the Cat Hospital such as injections and long-acting injections. These can be done in short outpatient visits to your veterinarian. Some injectable medications will need to be given daily. Other injectable medications work from 4 days to over one month. Consult with your Cat Veterinarian about these options.

For difficult cats and cats that are not eating, we can give oral medications through a temporarily placed esophagostomy tube on the left side of the neck. The soft rubber tube is placed under light sedation through a tiny hole in the neck and bandaged in place. This tube is well tolerated in cats. Medication can be liquefied or mixed with blended food and given with a syringe in this type of rubber feeding tube for months if necessary.

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