No matter how hard you work to keep your dog healthy, she's sure to need medication at some time in her life. To make sure medication is effective, you'll need to know how to give it, how much to give, and how long to continue giving it. Each is essential in ensuring your dog's return to good health.
Your dog's medication may come in the form of a pill, liquid, or drops for the eyes or ears. Before you leave the veterinarian's office, make sure you understand when to start giving the medication, whether it should be given with food or on an empty stomach, and how often you should give it each day. You should also inform the veterinarian of any herbal or holistic remedies or other medications your dog is taking. They might interfere with the effectiveness of the prescribed medication.
The safety margin of a medication depends on such factors as the dog's age and whether her liver and kidneys are functioning well. Young puppies have immature organs, so they don't process medications as effectively as adult dogs. Senior dogs may have decreased liver or kidney function, which impairs the movement of drugs through the system.
Whatever form the medication takes, it is important to give your dog the full course of it, even if she seems to be better after the first few days. Her body needs to build up a certain amount of the drug in the bloodstream for it to be fully effective. That's also why drugs need to be given at specific intervals, such as every eight hours. So don't assume that your dog is well and decide to save the medication for “next time.”
How to Give Pills
The easiest way to give pills is to hide them inside something tasty. Peanut butter, cream cheese, and canned dog food are all excellent “carriers” for pills. Before you follow this plan, ask your veterinarian if it's okay to do this. Some medications shouldn't be mixed with certain foods; for instance, tetracycline shouldn't be given with dairy products like cream cheese.
If you have a dog that eats the yummy coating and spits out the pill, or if the pill should be given on an empty stomach, you'll need to move to Plan B and give it by hand. Holding the pill in your dominant hand, use the other hand to hold the dog's mouth open. Place the pill toward the back of the tongue, close the mouth, and stroke the dog's throat to encourage swallowing. When you think she has swallowed, do a finger sweep inside her mouth to make sure she hasn't tucked the pill in her cheek to spit out later. Then give her a small treat or a few minutes of play with a favorite toy. The reward will encourage her to look forward to pill time.
Don't crush pills and sprinkle them on the dog's food. Crushed pills can have a bitter flavor that might make her reluctant to eat, and you won't have any way of knowing if she gets all the medication.
How to Give Liquids
Most liquid medications come with a dropper for dispensing them. If they don't, you can use a plastic syringe (the kind without a needle), as long as it has the proper measurement markings. Fill the dropper or syringe with the appropriate amount of medication, and hold it in your dominant hand, using your other hand to open the dog's mouth. Place the dropper in the mouth, aiming it at the cheek pouch, and pinch the lips closed. Slowly release the plunger and continue holding the lips closed until the dog swallows. Follow with a reward.
Eye Drops or Ointment
Administer eye drops straight from the bottle. Tilting the dog's head upward, hold the bottle in your dominant hand and squeeze the prescribed number of drops into the eye. Try not to touch the eye with the applicator tip. To apply an ointment to the eye, hold the head still with one hand, and pull the lower eyelid downward. Using your dominant hand, squeeze a small amount of ointment onto the eyelid, then release the eyelid and gently rub the surface of the closed eye to distribute the ointment over the eyeball. Again, be careful not to poke the dog in the eye with the applicator. It may help to have someone else hold her head for you.
Ear Drops or Ointment
Ear medications often need to go deep into the ear, so they usually come in a tube or bottle with a long, narrow applicator. Place the applicator inside the ear and dispense the appropriate amount. Be sure you have a firm grasp on your dog's head while you do this. Before he can shake his head and send the medication flying, fold the ear over and gently massage it to make sure the medication is thoroughly distributed.