Why is it important?
It's all very well for us vets to say "give these tablets twice a day, next patient please!" - but how easy do you actually find it to give medication to your dog? In this brief guide, we'll look at some common medications, and easy tricks to help you get them into or onto your pet!
OK, let's look at the details...
Different routes of medication are used for different conditions in dogs; however, there are a few common ones we'll look at here. Remember, whatever the medication is, always follow the directions that came with it. If you can't read something, or can't understand them, or if they seem wrong - don't make it up, call and ask your vet!
Tablets or capsules are the most common forms of medication, and can be among the trickiest to administer. In many cases, they can be hidden in food (typically inside a chunk of wet food or hidden in their bowl) - however, make sure that giving it with food won't alter how well it works. If they won't eat it in their dinner, try giving it in a little bit of chicken, ham or cheese as a special treat. If they still won't fall for it, or if it is a medication that cannot be given with food, you'll have to give it by hand. The simplest way is to sit your dog down, and then point their nose towards the ceiling. Open their mouth, and put the tablet as far towards the back of their mouth as you can (without getting nipped!). The close their mouth and hold it closed, gently rubbing their neck until they've swallowed. After swallowing, they'll try to lick their lips, at which point they've almost certainly swallowed the tablet - but remember to check, a few dogs are quite cunning at hiding tablets in their cheeks!
(2) Oral Liquids
These are usually given with or on food, and can just be measured out onto or into the food. Usually, it's easier to administer them in a strong-smelling or particularly tasty type of food, but most are designed to taste quite nice by themselves. If you have to give an oral liquid in the absence of food, or the dog won't eat the food with it on, the trick is to use a syringe (obviously without a needle on) and gently inject it between their teeth. The best technique is to sit them down, close their lips with one hand and then insert the syringe through the gap between their cheek teeth, then GENTLY syringe it into them (not too fast or they might choke on it). Once it's in their mouth, hold their mouth closed and rub their throat until they swallow.
Most commonly used for flea, tick and other parasite treatments, spot-on medications are increasingly popular. They should be applied to the back of the dog's neck (i.e. where they can't reach it to lick!). Part the hairs carefully, and then deposit the liquid on the skin directly. If the volume of liquid is too great, split the dose between 2 or more sites. Make sure it's completely dries before you pet the dog or allow any other pets to lick them!
(4) Ear Cleaners
Used to clean the ears, so don't confuse these with ear drops (containing medication for treating ear diseases). To apply an ear cleaner, have the dog sitting or standing upright, and lift the dog's ear up (which will straighten the ear canal). Then apply a suitable amount of cleaner directly into the canal but DO NOT force the nozzle into the ear, or you may damage the sensitive structures inside. Instead, insert the tip of the nozzle just into the canal before squeezing. After filling the canal with the cleaner, find the firm "trumpet" of cartilage below the ear, and give it a good massage - you'll usually get a lovely squishing sound as you move the cleaner around inside the ear, and most dogs love this bit (because it scratches the itchy bits inside!). Then use a cloth or cotton wool to wipe away the liquid and dirt that comes back out of the ear (again, DON'T stick anything down inside). Beware afterwards - most dogs will shake their heads violently, spraying the room with cleaner and liquid ear wax, so probably better do this away from any soft furnishings!
(5) Ear Drops
These should be applied in exactly the same way as a wash, but not wiped away afterwards - the quantity is usually too small to need it.
(6) Shampoos and Washes
There re all sorts of different shampoos and washes, for many different conditions. Each needs to be made up in a different concentration and left on for a different amount of time. Basically, READ THE LABEL before you start! In general, however, you need to wet the dog all over (this might be easiest in the bath using a shower attachment, or outside in a tub with the hosepipe!). Then apply the shampoo (remember, you may need to wear gloves for some) and lather it up. Allow the dog to stand for the required amount of time before rinsing thoroughly with lots and lots of fresh water, and then allow them to dry off naturally (towelling and using hair dryers are usually a bad idea, for various reasons).
(7) Eye Drops
Medicating a sore eye can be really difficult - dogs don't like you poking at their eyes (understandably), and the muscle that closes the eyelids (orbicularis oculi, if you're interested is, for its size, the strongest in the whole body. The tick with eye drops is not to try to apply them directly to the surface of the eye (the dog's blink reflex is often too fast for that!) but into the lower eyelid. So, allow the dog to stand or sit upright, and then with one hand gently CLOSE the affected eye. Use your thumb to carefully open just the lower eyelid, so it sticks out, and apply the required quantity of drops onto the INSIDE of the lower eyelid. Then, allow the eye to close, and the drops will be transported onto the surface of the eye. Easy!
Giving medications can be tough, but it's usually straightforward once you know how! If your dog really resents it or you're finding it really hard, don't struggle on and risk getting hurt, or hurting your pet. Instead, give your vet a call and they'll be able to show you how (or suggest a different option if even they can't get the patient to cooperate!).