Let’s begin with a partial list of the things pet owners may be embarrassed to admit to their veterinarian:
- how much “people” food their pet eats
- how little exercise their pet receives
- how rarely the pet’s ears are cleaned
- how difficult the pet is to medicate
All of the items listed above can be cause for concern, but difficulty administering at-home medication can cut across all medical issues.
Compliance with doctors’ recommendations is a hot-button issue in veterinary (as well as human) healthcare. Some of the top reasons for lack of compliance in following a doctor’s instructions are:
- the owner’s forgetfulness
- worry of side effects
- inability to understand instructions
- inability to administer medicine due to physical limitations
- inability to administer medicine due to scheduling conflicts
- inability to administer medicine due to pet’s character
- the pet’s refusal to accept medication due to size of tablet or objectionable flavor
- the pet’s apparent improvement before the course of treatment has been completed
The list goes on. The real problem arises when an owner does not immediately reveal to the veterinarian that they have been unable or unwilling to give the medication as instructed.
What can happen? Well, two things, at least.
1) The pet’s condition worsens, the doctor is made aware of the dosing problems, and the patient possibly faces more strenuous treatment the second time around, since the disease condition has progressed.
2) The pet’s condition worsens, the doctor is not made aware of the dosing problems and subsequently goes on a wild-goose chase to figure out why the pet is not responding to treatment. The doctor may end up trying new drugs that the client is also unable to give. No one is helped.
Admitting you are unable to follow the doctor’s orders may be embarrassing to you, but watching your pet grow sicker without treatment is likely to be worse.
- Make sure you understand all instructions given to you, including dosage amount, frequency of administration, what to do if you forget to give a dose, whether it’s okay to combine different drugs, and whether to give the medication with food or on an empty stomach.
- Ask questions about anything you do not understand. If you get home and realize you have a question, call the vet ASAP.
- Request easy-open (non-childproof) containers when needed.
- Ask for a typed copy of instructions not already included on the pill container.
- If you cannot give your pet its medication at all (especially if you fear being bitten), tell us! While this may limit our treatment choices, it will also save you time and expense. In most cases, once a drug has been dispensed, it is non-returnable. And medicine that sits in a cabinet, never to see the light of day (or the inside of your pet’s body) does no good at all.
Not every complication can be foreseen. Sometimes, the appropriate course of treatment is financially out of reach. Or perhaps your own health and life issues prevent you from doing all you would like to for your pets. It happens. In the meantime…
Let us know how we can better serve you when we dispense medications.
- Do you need a large-print version of all instructions?
- If a choice is available, would you prefer liquid or tablet medications?
- Would you like a dosing demonstration?
- Would you like a written timetable to coordinate administering multiple drugs?
- Would smaller quantities help? It can be budget-friendly.
- Would you like recommendations on flavorful pill concealers or other tricks* to improve the taste of medications?
It’s a team effort: the better we understand your lifestyle and capabilities, the better we can plan a treatment you can work with.
*Some pharmacies offer to compound drugs with a more palatable flavor. Though costlier, this may be the key to success for some pets.
We found this pet pilling demo on YouTube: How to Give Your Pet a Pill.
What are your concerns about administering medications to your pets?
This article was originally posted on July 20, 2012.