So you've done the research and found the right remedy or combination of
remedies for your dog or cat's condition. Great! You order the herbs or remedies
and anxiously await the delivery of the package. The box arrives; you open it up
and call Fido or Fluffy to come get a "treat." (Hopefully you remembered to
order some REALLY delicious treats when you ordered that remedy). Good start –
giving your companion a treat with remedy bottle in hand may help her associate
the remedy bottle with yummy treats. Now what?
Well, if you are about to administer a remedy to a dog – breathe a sigh of
relief and be thankful he's not a cat. If it's a tablet or capsule all you need
is a little meat, cheese or peanut butter and down the hatch it will go; Mary Poppins style – "Just a spoon full of sugar…"
Not so easy with a cat. Every cat owner has received at least one humorous email
about "pilling a cat" that describes a hilarious scene involving multiple
injuries and bandages applied to the cat owner, pills flying through the air –
frequently to be inadvertently swallowed by said cat owner, and visions of
retrieving angry felines from draperies and chandeliers. The reason we laugh so
hard at these jokes is that they are not that far from the truth! Getting
medication or remedies into a cat can be an excruciating endeavor.
Here are a few hints to help you administer remedies to
your companion. We'll start with how to work with liquids and later
address "pilling a cat".
Liquid remedies such as herbs, homeopathics or flower essences may
contain a small amount of alcohol as a preservative. Some animals
are sensitive to the smell or taste
of alcohol so you may wish to remove it; measure the dosage into a small vial or
shot glass and let it sit out for 15-20 minutes to let the alcohol
evaporate. Alternatively, drop the dosage into a small amount of heated
water to speed the evaporation of the alcohol. The additional water will
not affect the potency of the remedy. Don’t hesitate to put a couple
drops of the remedy on your own tongue so you know what it tastes like –
none of the liquid herbal or homeopathic remedies are in any way harmful
for humans. It is best to use a
or extra dropper to administer the diluted remedy to your pet so you do not
contaminate the remedy bottle with bacteria from the animal's mouth.
Most herbal tinctures can be added to the food and this will work well
for dogs. Cats, of course, may reject their food if you add anything
new. If you have a fussy feline we suggest mixing the remedy with a
bit of really yummy canned food or a treat.
Canned tripe works well as it has a
strong smell and most animals love the taste, re-hydrated
chicken treats and tuna juice also do the trick.
Most homeopathic remedies are best given at least 20 minutes before or
after a meal. Ideally there should be no food residue in the mouth. Drop
the liquid directly into the animal's mouth or on the gums (after
evaporating the alcohol). If this proves impossible for your companion,
then mix the remedy with a small amount of food or a treat.
Tablets and capsules present a bit more of a challenge. Some guardians
have perfected the practice of opening their companion's mouth and
popping the pill far enough back that the animal is forced to swallow
it. This is fine if it works for you, but it is very important that you
follow administration of the pill with enough liquid or food to wash the
pill down the animal's throat. We don't swallow vitamins or pills
without water or food and we should not expect an animal to do so
either. The lining of the esophagus is delicate and easily irritated by
pills or capsules that pass too slowly or get stuck. Painful ulcers can
develop when some herbs or medications remain in the esophagus too long.
Most dogs and cats will not voluntarily drink water if a pill is stuck
in their throat-so encourage them with broth, tuna juice or diluted
canned food or baby food. Coating the tablet or capsule with butter
prior to administering it will help it go down more smoothly as well.
Do not tip your companion's head up and try to force them to swallow the
pill this way; it is much more difficult to swallow with
the head tilted up. After dropping the pill in, let your dog or cat's
head return to a normal position and gently hold their mouth closed.
Tickling the throat or blowing into the nose softly may encourage them
Most dogs will readily swallow tablets or pills in a treat if you break
the pieces small enough for them to swallow easily - which is a lot less
stressful than prying the mouth open and administering the pill dry.
Surround the pill with cheese, peanut butter, or a bit of canned food - whatever your dog or cat really loves. If you have a companion with a
dexterous tongue who tends to find the tablet or capsule inside the
treat, it helps to give a couple treats without the pill first so
they are not suspicious, and then follow with the hidden pill. Try not
make the treat so large that they have to chew or maneuver it around in
their mouth - you want them to just taste and swallow.
treats can make the whole job much easier as they are tasty treats
designed to hide a pill in. Another option is to
crush tablets and open capsules to mix with food… for dogs.
Which brings us back to the tricky issue of pilling a cat. The first step is to
retrieve the first aid kit from under the bathroom sink. (OK, hopefully not).
The calmer you are about this procedure the less anxious your cat will be, and
the more likely you will be able to repeat this a second time (hopefully as many
times as need be). Begin with a picture in your mind of the entire procedure
going quickly and smoothly. Got that vividly imagined in your mind? Good, now…
Warning – as long as your cat's head is elevated – nose pointing up – he cannot
bite you. Do not try to pill a cat with his head in a normal position or you may
Drooling or foaming at the mouth is not unusual for a stressed animal,
particularly after administering a remedy. It is a good idea to check your dog
or cat's mouth to make sure the pill is gone before releasing her. Some cats are
quite clever and will "pretend" to have swallowed the capsule only to walk away
and deposit it behind your sofa. Most dogs are, thankfully, a bit less sneaky
and will just drop the pill at your feet so you can retrieve it and try again.
After you reward Fluffy or Fido for taking their remedy, don't forget to reward
yourself for being so clever. A bit of chocolate or a glass of wine… whatever
defuses the stress – just so you don't hide under the bed when it's time to
administer the next dose.