What to do if your pet's a pill about taking its medicine


April 03, 1993|By Gina Spadafori | Gina Spadafori,McClatchy News Service

QUESTION: Our cat now has to take pills every day, and we're having a very difficult time getting them down her. We tried the vet's "force" method, but she's starting to avoid us. Is there a better way?

ANSWER: There are three basic ways to give pills to a pet, and since every animal is different, you should do a little experimenting to find out what works best with your cat.

The first approach, as you noted, is the straightforward one. Hold your pet in your lap, petting and praising her until she's relaxed and happy. Then open her muzzle gently and push the pill into her throat with your index finger. Close her mouth, lift the muzzle skyward and stroke her throat until she swallows. Finish with more petting and plenty of praise. If this method hasn't been working for you, you may be shy on the praise and petting.

The second approach is to break up or grind the pill and add it to the pet's food. The mash-and-mix method works best with pets that eat quickly and aren't finicky. There are some problems: If your pet's on dry food, for example, it won't work, because kibble doesn't mix well enough to hide the medicine. And if you have other pets, you'll have to guard against them getting something that's not meant for them.

The third technique is probably the most popular. Coat the pill with a small amount of food the pet adores and stand back as watch it get snapped up. What food works best? Cheese is always popular, as are liver sausage and hot dogs.

My favorite pill-coater is the processed cheese that comes in a pressurized can.

Q: My dog always seems to be constipated. Can I give her a "people cure"?

A: Chronic constipation demands the attention of a veterinarian.

Poor diet and lack of regular exercise could be the cause, or the condition could be an indication of a more serious illnesses.

Many cases of chronic constipation are cured by adjusting the animal's diet. Certain food ingredients are necessary for the normal and regular formation and passage of waste, and key among these are non-digestible fibers.

In nature, the problem with getting a balanced diet is one of availability -- food has to be caught first. But after that, everything is provided for: The wild relatives of our dogs and cats eat the whole animal -- skin, hair, bones and all -- and so get the fiber they need. Pets today may get their meals handed to them, but those meals may not be meeting all their needs. A diet of only highly digestible proteins and carbohydrates will not contain enough undigestible material for proper digestion. Your vet will be able to recommend an appropriate food.

For some dogs, bones may be a problem. While most dogs are content to chew on bones, there are those that eat them entirely, cracking them into smaller pieces and swallowing them. In these cases, the bone pieces act like cement, binding together to produce large feces that are too large to be passed. In some cases, surgical intervention is called for.

There are some cases of chronic constipation that are not food-related, such as diseases of the spinal nerves and colon, tumors and hormonal imbalances. The possibilities are varied, and so are the treatments.

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