Pet owners have more options for medicating pets

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During my first year in practice, I had three unfortunate experiences that were frustrating because the pets could have survived if different forms of drugs or delivery of medications and treatments had been available at the time.

The first was Charlie, a sweet, 12-year-old, mixed-breed dog. He developed early-stage heart disease. I prescribed heart medication, which should have kept him well for at least another year.

When his owners called me after two days of failed medication attempts, I told them I felt certain we could get their 15-pound dog to take his pills.

They brought him to the office, and after several attempts to get Charlie to take his tiny pill failed, he became vicious, biting at me and his owners. He could find a pill in any food item, would not allow anyone to open his mouth to insert the pill, and he bit the end off a pilling device. We never got him to take a single pill.

The second frustrating experience involved a farm dog with fleas. His owners had given a feed store flea treatment that was not effective, so they decided to apply a cattle parasite drug topically.

They determined the chemical had the same name as the small-animal prescription flea control, and they had the drug in the barn, available right then. Their dog died from insecticide overdose, within minutes of arrival at my office, because the formulation allowed for fast absorption of drug.

The third frustrating experience involved Sasha, a 10-year-old diabetic cat. When her blood sugar was dangerously high, she would snuggle and allow her owners to give her insulin.

After a few days of regulation, she became active and felt better. Then she would hide anytime the insulin came out of the refrigerator. When caught, she would growl, hiss and claw, rather than take her injection. Her owner would have to wait until she was almost comatose to give a dose of insulin. She was far from being regulated.

When pets in those situations arrive in my office now, I can offer lots more options to owners. The combination of specific pet medications, more options for drug delivery and the ability to have compounded drugs made in forms and flavors that the fussiest of pets enjoy have made my job easier.

Now when my patients are fussy about medicines, I can offer compounded chew tabs; flavored (with any flavor your pet enjoys) oral liquids; transdermal liquids that can be rubbed into the skin; drops that get absorbed through the gums (no forcing pets to open their mouths to swallow; instead, one can just drop on the lips while the pet rests); timed-release, once-a-day oral medicines; and even a single antibiotic shot that works for two weeks.

For diabetics, some of my patients respond to a treatment called NAET, which can eliminate the need for insulin. Many others respond to oral herbs and special diets. There are now insulins that do not require refrigeration, so pets don’t dread a cold injection. In-home pet diabetes testing kits have improved greatly, so diabetics are better regulated.

Flea-control choices continue to improve. Toxic reactions are decreasing, but still occur with many store or online purchased insecticides. Vets still see health risks from allergic reactions, especially true when multiple medications are applied by owners. For pet owners who do not want to apply a liquid on their pets, many new oral and timed-release insect regulators are available.

The key to getting the ideal treatment for your pet is to ask about all available forms and candidly discuss your budget and ability to medicate.

Before leaving the vet’s office with medicines, ask to be shown how they are best given. Do not crush tablets to put in the food, unless your vet says it is safe to do so.

Tell your vet if you are having problems with administering any drugs and ask for alternate therapies. There are lots of options for treatment and more choices are being released every month.

Dr. Cynthia Maro is a veterinarian at the Ellwood Animal Hospital in Ellwood City and the Chippewa Animal Hospital in Chippewa Township. She writes a biweekly column on pet care and health issues. If you have a topic you’d like to address, email