As with human medicines animal medicines can be a hazard to the intended patient or to the administrator as well as to other animals or humans if readily accessible. Animal medicines are rigorously tested as they have a powerful job to do. Any mistakenly taken medicines by animals should be referred to a vet and by humans to a doctor.
If you are not sure how to effectively administer a medicine it is advisable to get an experienced person to demonstrate how to do it for you.
All medicines should be kept away from children and food stuffs. Records should be kept of all medicines administered. These records should include the name of the medicine, its pharmaceutical strength, the date it was given, the dose given and the animal it was given to.
The storage requirements of the product should also be observed as not storing them in the required conditions may result in the efficacy of the medicines being changed or reduced which will render them useless for effective treatment. Some will need to be stored at room temperature, some in a fridge and some in the dark.
This is the most common form of medicine administration and many pets will devour tablets when placed in their food. However for tablets there are instances when they need to be taken at specific times or not to coincide with meals as the presence of food in the gut will interfere with their absorption. It is normally acceptable to give these tablets with a treat or a chunk of meat and some animals will also swallow tablets on their own. However with fussy eaters and cats in particular action will need to be taken to ensure safe and effective administration. The general approach in these cases is to make sure the pet is well restrained.
To be most effective it is recommended to put your pet on a non-slippery table or surface out of their normal environment. This is because a pet is more likely to let you assume the role of superiority and let you be the boss when they are in a situation they are not familiar with.
An extra pair of hands is also of benefit with the animals hind quarters pressed against the holder's chest, so it cannot back away, with the animal's head facing away from the holder and easily accessible for the tablet to be given. The holder can then use one arm on each side of the animal to hold the front legs whilst using their arms to reduce sideways movements. The muzzle should then be pointed upwards by raising the head, the jaws open and the tablet put onto the v shaped groove of the tongue close to the jaw. When the animal swallows the tablet should then disappear.
With dogs you will generally see the throat move and the tongue coming out but it is advisable to get the holder to continue holding on for a time whilst letting the head move to check the tablet has really been swallowed.
With cats the tablet can be pushed to the back of the mouth with a pen and then the mouth closed. The nose should be kept raised until swallowing occurs.
The administration of liquids is similar to tablets, with most liquids being able to be added into food or water. The product instructions should be read carefully to ensure the administration method is correct. One disadvantage of this is however that you cannot ensure the animal has taken the full dose of the medicine which will depend on the animal's appetite and the palatability of the medicine itself. It is recommended to leave a substantial gap without food and water so that the animal is hungry and thirsty and will take as much medicine as possible to maximise the effectiveness of the dose (taking into account hot weather conditions of course). The food should be as fresh as possible and in a small quantity again to encourage complete taking of the dose. If the medicine is to be given 'ad lib' ensure the food is replaced regularly to keep the food fresh and appetising.
It is imperative to read the product instructions carefully with these products as some medicines will be for a specific area of the animal only and others will need maximum coverage on the animal. Some will need to be administered externally and care should therefore be taken to avoid openings such as the nose, eyes and mouth. Application should be done away from food and other sensitive objects as the very nature of these products means that the animal as well as the surrounding area can easily become covered.
A well-ventilated area and one with no naked flames is also essential as sprays can be inflammable. Sprays can also be noisy and the noise when activating them, and especially to cats, can be alarming. It is often the case that these medicines need repeat treatments so it is imperative not to put animals off if at all possible. Good restraint is also key and gloves are recommended. Restraint should be done differently using external administration and it is advisable for one person to hold the collar or scruff and the rear end while the second person applies the product.
For long hair use a brush or comb to open up the hair and access the skin more readily and when using sprays spray against the lay of the coat for the most effective application.
It is often the case that the environment surrounding a pet will also need some form of treatment to ensure the problem will not once again affect the pet when treatment has been completed. This is particularly the case with fleas as the immature fleas (egg, larvae and pupae) live off the animal and are often found in bedding, carpets or on furniture. Laundering is obviously the first step of removal here but treatment with an environmental product is also recommended. These are often in the form of a spray or a powder.
These medicines are often prescribed by a vet and tend not to be routinely available for general purchase, having very specific administration instructions. Often these medicines are for specific areas of the animal only. One of the largest problems with this type of medicine is that the animal will try and lick the medicine off almost as soon as it is applied. Distraction is the best form of ensuring the medicines can have time to act here. Food and/or exercise are two forms of distraction as is avoidance and the use of collars etc so that the animal cannot access the treated area. The area to be treated should also be clean and debris free, if not use cotton wool and water to clean it.