Tuesday, November 11, 2014

How to pill your dog or cat- it's not as hard as you think!

     There are so many things that pet owners think are SO HARD and SO STRESSFUL and often, they aren't- the owner just hasn't been educated on how to make it easier.  Pilling a sick dog or cat is one of these issues.  They make pill guns for dogs and cats, but my vets have told me they have seen more injuries from these devices than you can shake a stick at.  So here is a primer on how to pill a dog or cat with little stress for the owner or the animal.
     Dogs are a breeze.  Yes, you can put the meds in peanut butter or cream cheese (a dog will go for cream cheese like a crazed maniac). It also doesn't stick in the dog's mouth along with the pill which is now dissolving and tasting very bad for your dog. If you pill your dog wrongly, you may see the dog's mouth foam like crazy and you will be tempted to flip out.  Don't.  This is just the dog's saliva glands working overtime to get the nasty taste out of its mouth. So let's not have that happen.  If you have one of those dogs who "knows" there is something in the piece of ham (another great method) or cream cheese, you will have to work a little harder.  First of all, coat the tablet in butter, and if it's a capsule, do the same- it makes it slippery and easier to get down.  Now, this is the part you really have to do right. Put the dog either higher than the ground or stand behind the dog (this is better for large dogs). Open their jaw and place the slippery pill so far back on their tongue that you can almost feel the soft tissue of their palate- WAY BACK.  Then shut their mouth and stroke their throat.  If they lick their lips, the pill has gone down.  If they hack, you are back to square one and it's gonna be harder b/c now they know what's coming and the tablet or capsule is starting to disintegrate.
Now you have two options. Try fast to repeat the above steps or take the nasty pill and put it aside and try again in an hour.  If you are having trouble doing this alone, have someone else stand in front of the sitting dog to open their jaw, and you stand behind them and put the pill way back in the dog's throat.  Most owners make the mistake of not placing the pill far enough back or not making the pills slippery enough to slide down the dog's throat.  Why put a smaller dog up high and stand behind a large dog? It makes small dogs uncomfortable to be up high and they are preoccupied with that and tend to not fight the pill as much. As for the large dogs, standing behind the SITTING DOG (no standing when you pill a dog), lets the dog know you are in charge and they can't back out which is what they will want to do.  As you can tell from the picture below, this woman's hand is almost all the way in the dog's mouth and that is just how you want it to be. 

     Cats- yuck.  It's just a pain in the butt, and can be a pain everywhere if the cat fights the process and leaves you scratched up.  Try to hide in the stinkiest cat food (canned) you can find- something the cat would kill for.  Use a SMALL AMOUNT OF FOOD, not the whole can.  That way you can see if the pill was ingested.  Don't crumble a tablet or empty a capsule into the food b/c cats have an amazing sense of smell and they will take one sniff and walk away.  Even the most enticing canned food won't work if they can smell the evil bitter meds.  Now, if that doesn't work, the hard work starts.  If you have never pilled a cat before I recommend two people and a large towel. Stay very quiet and calm and try to keep the cat in a place they are familiar with- in other words, don't bring an outside cat in the house to pill them- or vice versa- but make sure they are in a semi enclosed place so they can't run away- small bathrooms work well. If you have a suspicious or shy cat who is an outside cat, bring them in.  Otherwise they won't come near you for a month.  :)  Have one person wrap the cat's body in a towel as fast and as tight as you can. Try for no claws sticking out, obviously. Do the same thing with the pill as you do with a dog- coat it in butter.  Now this is where sheer bravery and expedience are needed (not easy for a first timer or an old timer).  Sit behind the cat, who is now wrapped up and open their jaw and stick that pill in way back, way fast. The picture below shows how to sit behind and above a cat but this is also the stance you have to have with a large dog. You are NOT SITTING ON THE CAT!!! Both dogs and cats will try to back out rather than go forward so I have found the " come from the back of the animal" to work much better than coming at the animal from the front. Cats are not nearly as forgiving as dogs and their teeth HURT.  If the cat is really sick and you have to do this over a series of days, the cats will eventually just let you do it.  If not, and the cat is a fighter, wear garden gloves or leather gloves and just aim as far back as possible.  If it just is not going to happen, call your vet and ask them for ideas (pill guns do work on cats if you are very careful, but you will still have to restrain the cat well.  

It's tick season in most of Florida or other warm climates, how to deal with these beasts!

     Well for the Floridians reading this or other people in warmer climates, it's tick season.  It seems odd to me that we may fight fleas all summer, but although people tell me ticks are out in the summer,  I have never found a tick on one of my dogs or cats until it starts to become cool- always November.
      Since this is my blog and based on my experience, don't take it as vet advice.  This is my advice based on 40 years of working with and around dogs almost constantly.  So people just FREAK OUT OVER TICKS!! Yes, there is some merit to being not real happy when you find a tick on your cat or dog or even yourself.  And there are so many " ways to remove a tick safely" that it's almost funny.  There are plastic tick removers in pet stores now, so you don't have to touch the tick itself.  There are wives tales galore about how to kill and tick and make it let go. They range from putting Vaseline or rubbing alcohol on the tick to nail polish remover or putting a lit match to the tick!! These methods are more likely to make the tick regurgitate, spreading even more of its toxins into the body of your animal or you! I've removed hundreds or ticks and I use two methods.  One is to grasp the tick as close to the head as you an and pull straight out (yes with your bare hands- GASP),  The other way is to use a pair of tweezers and use the same method.  Don't twist or grab the tick where it's grey body is or you won't get the whole tick.
     If you are afraid of lyme disease or live in an area where ticks spread Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, keep the tick in a container and take it to your vet who can identify the species and either reassure you or put your animal on antibiotics. Now, here is something I have found interesting over the years.  Cats almost ALWAYS get ticks in two places- in the fur around their head and neck, and (sorry but you need to know this) on the cat's anus.  I've wondered and today it came to me why these make good places for ticks to go on a cat.  They are places a cat cannot reach with it's mouth to chew the tick away which is what the cat would do if it was on their body.  So each day in the fall, I pet my cats' heads and necks carefully and when they turn around I look at their heinies.  I will never forget the time one of my cats had five or six cats on her bum and my dear mother was here and she said, " Honey, I'm no wimp and that's miserable for Bella, so you get the tweezers, I'll hold and you get them off this poor baby."  Bella was hard to hold but she was tick free in the end. (no pun intended).
     Dogs and horses tend to get ticks in different places than cats.  Dogs tend to get them in folds of skin, like in the armpits or on their belly but a lot of the time they will be on the dog's face or body- ears as seen above are a favorite hideout for ticks, again, most of them are in places where the dog wouldn't be able to get them off themselves.  Horses- ticks go for the soft skin between the horses hind legs.  I once picked 53 ticks off of a gelding's scrotum and stomach after he was in an area that obviously was loaded with ticks.  This was not my horse, but a dear friend's and we counted as she took ticks off the other horse and between the two of us we got 80 something ticks.  WITH OUR BARE HANDS TOO! Didn't freak me out one bit, I was feeling too sorry for the horse.  Tick bites swell and itch worse than just about anything for an animal or a person.  It's truly miserable for animals.
     Ticks often leave a large swollen and hard bump on the skin where they bit the animal.  It feels like a knot under the skin and often has a scab around it.  This is an allergic reaction to the tick bite.  Some animals have this reaction and others don't. This lump should reduce in size as time goes by.  Cleaning it with Betadine Cleanser and applying antibiotic ointment may help but that's really if you are worried.  If the bump does not get smaller or it feels hot to the touch or the skin around it feels hot, take your animal to the vet, as the tick may have spread an infection into the animal's body and the pet will need antibiotics by mouth. Here is a mild example of the lumps or reddened areas left after the tick has been removed. You can actually see the hole where the  tick was attached.  There are so many products made to deter ticks and kill them before they become imbedded in your dog's skin for a long period of time. INVEST IN THESE PRODUCTS!!! There are some homemade sprays you can use on your dog or cat but you must spray them every single day and make sure you cover all the areas the ticks can burrow into.  The toxins in the products sold at pet stores are not as dangerous to your dog as the infections and even death that your dog or cat or horse can experience from a bad tick bite. Flush all ticks down the toilet and wash your hands (obviously) after removing the tick from your animals. And as always, if you are worried or concerned or scared to remove the tick, go see your vet.