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Liquid Medication for Your Dog or Cat

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Giving liquid medication

The easiest way to give your dog or cat liquid medication is to mix it in a small amount of food  (such as canned food) that your pet is certain to eat.  If this doesn’t work, you will need to place the liquid medication directly in your pet’s mouth.


Some liquid medications must be stored refrigerated, which can make the medication less palatable.  Ask your veterinarian if you can warm the medication by placing the bottle in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes immediately before administering it to your dog or cat.


Make sure you have read the instructions and understand the amount of liquid medication you are to administer to your pet.  Be sure the liquid is well mixed.


Draw the medication up into the dosing syringe.  With the syringe handy, prepare a safe place where you can comfortably handle your pet.  Placing a small dog or cat in your lap may be easier.  You can also wrap your pet snugly in a towel with only its head exposed.


Hold the syringe in your dominant hand.  Use your other hand to stabilize your pet’s head.


In general, cats are given liquid medication inside the teeth, dogs alongside the teeth:


Special cat tips:  Many cats will lick the drops of medication from the tip of the syringe as you slowly depress the plunger.


If your cat is not interested in licking the liquid, gently hold your cat by the scruff of the neck and pull the head back. The mouth will then open slightly.  Place the tip of the syringe in the side of the mouth, just behind one of the canine teeth (fang), and move the syringe forward so that it is just past the tooth line (inside the teeth).


Angle the syringe slightly to the side. You do not want to inject the liquid straight into the back of the throat because this increases the risk of the cat inhaling or aspirating the liquid.


Special dog tips:  Create a pouch along the side of your dog’s mouth by pulling the lip away from the teeth with the thumb of the hand holding the dog’s head.  Place the tip of the syringe in the side of the mouth, just behind one of the canine teeth, and move the syringe forward so that it is just past the tooth line.


Angle the syringe slightly to the side. You do not want to inject the liquid straight into the back of the throat because this increases the risk of the dog inhaling or aspirating the liquid.


For both cats and dogs, slowly squeeze the syringe to dispense the medication.  Make sure your pet has time to swallow the liquid and breathe normally.  Many pets will spit out some of the medication.  Do not give another dose of medication unless you are certain that your pet swallowed none of it.


Make sure to praise your pet throughout the procedure and offer a treat after giving the medication.


Rinse the syringe thoroughly with water, and refrigerate the medication if necessary.

 

Q&A

What is the simplest way to give liquid medications?

The easiest way to give your pet liquid medication is to mix it in a small amount of food that your pet is certain to eat.  If this doesn’t work, you will need to place the medication directly in your pet’s mouth.  


What do I need to consider before giving liquid medications?

Get ready by preparing a safe place where you can comfortably handle your pet.  Before starting, you should also read the instructions on the medication, make sure that liquids are well mixed, and ask your veterinarian if it is okay to warm refrigerated medications to room temperature (so as to improve palatability).


What’s the best way to handle my pet?

You can place a cat or small dog in your lap, perhaps wrapping your cat snugly in a towel with only its head exposed.  Bigger animals can be positioned against you or led into a corner on the floor.


What are some tricks for administering liquid medications?

Handle the dropper or syringe with your dominant hand, and use your other hand to stabilize the head.  Administer medications slowly so that animals can breathe without inhaling the liquid.  In general, cats are given liquid medication inside the teeth, whereas dogs are given them slowly into the pouch between the teeth and gums.


What if my pet spits out some of the medication?

Many pets will spit out some of the medication.  Do not give another dose of medication unless you are certain that your pet swallowed none of it.

Credit: Written and reviewed by John A. Bukowski, DVM, MPH, PhDand Susan E. Aiello, DVM, ELS
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