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Thursday, October 1, 2015

Using transdermal medications to treat chronic illness in cats is a low stress option

"My cat is going to need prescription medication for the rest of their life. How am I going to manage things if that's the case?" 

This is a common refrain that passes the lips of clients – existing and prospective ones – not to mention pet owners that need reassurance.

It's daunting, right – realizing that your pet is ill and then having a firm diagnosis, or having routine bloodwork come back indicating that there is something going on? The good news is that things have come a long way with treating disease in the years that I've been caring for pets.

Advances in diagnostics and treatment have expedited the sometimes muddled path between "there's-something-going-on to here's-the-solution". That's especially true when it comes to treatment, especially with prescription medicines. 

That brings me to an important facet of treating disease: if the option is there, you want to make that as easy and low-stress as possible on the animal, and yourself (and caregivers!).

When we think of prescription meds, pills and capsules of course come to mind for some diseases, ointment, creams and drops for others, not to mention the much-feared injectable meds for diabetes. Suspensions are an option in some cases, as are medications formulated into yummy chewable treats, but my first suggestion is if at all feasible is have the medication compounded into a transdermal preparation. Transdermal medication is applied directly to the skin and absorbed into the system.

Drugs like those used for parasite prevention in pets have been administered transdermally for years, so the concept is nothing new. These days, drugs like antidepressants, prednisolone and those used to treat thyroid issues (all of these, the most frequently-prescribed drugs among my feline charges) are normally compounded this way.

There's nothing worse than trying to corral your cat so that you can try to pill them or attempt to slip an oral syringe into their mouth (hoping that you don't waste any of a measured liquid dose as they wiggle around or work to heave out what goes down). After a few go-rounds of this – or even successful administrations – cats gets wise so they try and avoid it. It becomes a stressful time, and can really impact any favorable interaction with them.

Imagine trying to manage that as often as twice a day, every day.

That's also something to consider when thinking of when your cat has a caregiver of any experience level. Though I find actually administering medications easy, I've spent many a visit just trying to locate a reluctant cat because they know at some point medication is happening. It's nearly impossible in some cases and most importantly, it's stressful on the cat. That's not something I want for them.

Formulated into a gel, most often in a convenient applicator (think of a lip gloss applicator) that is twisted from the bottom to easily measure a precise dose, transdermals are applied to the ear flap. What could be easier? 

Aside from the benefit of low-stress handling of the animal, going with a transdermal can provide other favorable aspects, like lessening any GI irritation since there's no gastric or intestinal contact – a concern in cats with GI issues. A reduction in dose-dependent side effects is possible, and because there's more precision in formulating the finished gel, as a custom dose can be created for the cat's size. 

Some drugs can't be compounded this way, as they act locally in the GI tract, or they're simply not able to effectively absorb through the skin in a precise therapeutic dose. This method is also more expensive, so that can be a drawback. (That said, wasted medication and having to address possible complications with a vet visit because of missed doses is costly.)

Medications like these can't be filled by traditional drug stores, but rather a compounding pharmacy. Prescriptions can be easily handled by accredited Pharmacy Compounding Accreditation Board (PCAB) pharmacy locally, or by one that is processed online

I urge my clients to seriously consider going with a transdermal when a chronic illness has been diagnosed if it's an option. In doing so, one curates a plan for low-stress handling, resulting in a recipe for success. Equally, in consideration of having a caregiver be there to administer medication when the guardians can't, everyone is empowered as the task is done calmly, correctly and the end-goal of managing the disease stays on track.

Click here for more tips on medicating pets. 


Lorrie Shaw is a freelance writer and owner of Professional Pet Sitting. Shoot her an email, contact her at 734-904-7279 or follow her adventures on Twitter.


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