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How to Administer Prescription Antibiotics to Pets


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Published: 5/21/2021

Getting our pets to take their medicine can be tricky at best and seemingly "impawssible" at worst. Antibiotics may be a little easier to administer, since many pets feel under the weather from their infection and may not put up much of a fight.

Antibiotics come in a wide range of forms, including capsules, powders, liquids, and chewables. We'll share some tips for administering each type of antibiotic to both dogs and cats.

How to administer prescription antibiotics to your pet

First, talk to your vet if you have any concerns about getting your dog or cat to take their medicine. They'll be able to provide some tips and best practices for administering meds to a stubborn fur-baby.

Read the product instructions carefully. Since some antibiotics, like amoxicillin, have a short half-life, giving each dose on time is essential for eradicating the infection.

Set an alarm or reminder on your phone to make sure you don't forget any doses. If you'll be away from home when your pet needs their meds, ask a trusted friend, roommate, or family member to cover for you. (Or book a drop-in visit with Wag! to ensure your pup takes their medication on time!)

If you do forget a dose, check the instructions. For most antibiotics, you won't need to double up on doses. You'll usually need to skip the missed dose and give the next one at the scheduled time. Contact your vet if you're not sure what to do if your pet misses a dose of antibiotics.

Tips and tricks for administering antibiotics to dogs

Let's explore some fun, easy ways to trick your dog into taking their meds. Check out our guides on administering pills and liquid medications to your dog for more practical advice.

Hide the pill in a piece of food

This is the oldest trick in the book! Wrap up the capsule or tablet in a piece of cheese, or hide it in a small amount of canned dog food. (Don't try this one if your dog has to take it on an empty stomach.) Be sure to feed only a small amount so your dog takes the whole antibiotic.

Sprinkle the powder over your dog's food or into a liquid

Some antibiotics, like tylosin, come in powder form. Some powders are water-soluble and can be added to a liquid. Others can be mixed with food. If your vet prescribes a powder, ask whether you can add it to your pet's food or compound it into a liquid. Again, be sure to feed a small amount to ensure your dog consumes all the medicine. Don't crush up your dog's tablets or pills and add them to your dog's food without asking your vet first.

Get some pill-pocket treats and make it a fun game

This is a "grrreat" way to distract your dog. Buy some pill-pocket treats from your local big-box pet store and prepare to play! Hide the pill in one of the treats and head outside. Toss your dog a few treats, then toss them the one with the pill inside. Hopefully, they'll gobble it down without even noticing.

Be super vigilant during the game to make sure your dog takes the medication. If you can't find any pill-pocket treats at your local pet store, try molding a soft treat around the pill instead.

Sneak it into a toy

If you own a KONG, use it to your advantage! Add the capsule, tablet, or chewable to the KONG with peanut butter or soft food. Chances are, your pup will play for hours without even knowing they've taken their meds. Make sure to check the KONG afterward to ensure they ate all the food and the medicine along with it.

Ask for a flavored option

Let's face it — most meds taste bitter or downright gross. If your pup has a history of refusing their meds, ask your vet if they can prescribe a flavored chewable tablet instead. Some antibiotics, like Clavamox, are available in yummy flavors like cheese, chicken, and pork liver.

Tips and tricks for administering antibiotics to cats

Unfortunately, our feline friends are often harder to persuade. Some of the methods above won't work for cats. Since cats are more likely to chew their food, they're more likely to spit out the bitter medication if they taste it. Your best bet is getting it right the first time — which is much easier said than done!

Here are a few things to keep in mind when administering antibiotics to cats.

Know what not to do

Whenever administering antibiotics to a cat, don't:

  • crush up a pill or tablet into your cat's food. (Unless your vet recommends it.)
  • add your cat's meds to milk, cheese, or another dairy product. (Contrary to popular belief, cats can't digest dairy!)
  • give your cat cold liquid medication. (They're more likely to accept it at room temperature.)
  • feed your cat "people" food like tuna to encourage them to take their meds. (Canned tuna, especially in oil, can cause stomach upset.)
  • approach your cat suddenly or forcefully. (This will put them on guard and make it harder to adminster the medication.)

Try the swaddle method

Use the swaddle method as a last resort for a "pawticularly" stubborn cat. Grab a towel or plush blanket and wrap up your cat like a burrito. Then, open their mouth and administer the antibiotic. Be as quick as you can — this will cause some stress for your cat. But an annoyed cat is always better than a sick cat!

Things to consider when administering antibiotics to your pets

Monitor your pet for signs of an allergic reaction

Many antibiotics for pets are in the pencillin class. Penicillin allergies in dogs and cats are quite common. Consult your vet if you notice any of the following signs of an antibiotic allergy:

*Indicates common signs of anaphylactic shock, a potentially deadly condition that requires immediate attention.

Always give the full course of antibiotics, even if your pet seems to be feeling better

Stopping a course of antibiotics early may not fully eradicate the infection. Not only can this cause the infection to recur, but it can also make the bacteria resistant to that particular antibiotic. This will prolong your pet's discomfort and require another, stronger course of antibiotics.

Got questions or concerns about administering antibiotics to your pet? Consult your vet or chat live with a veterinarian now!

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