Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Two crucial details can make the act of medicating pets in fragile health less stressful

I recall one of the things that Harold Rhee and I chatted about during one segment of the Pawprint Animal Rescue Podcast were the challenges that families face in medicating pets who are in fragile health or receiving palliative or hospice care. Whether it's pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals or supplements, what is meant to provide comfort care, pain or anxiety relief or even treatment for a disease can be a source of struggle for both pet and human. 

Having had plenty of personal experience with that, I use what I learned during that period and beyond to administer what is prescribed by way of the most humane, safe methods possible and to get the most cooperation from pets. Though I'm not Fear Free Certified yet (still waiting on that to become available), I have participated in Fear Free training, which built on my previous experience and existing philosophy: interact with pets in the most safe and humane ways while getting their permission. I use these skills and teach them to my families, and it's just one way to make a daunting prospect a little less so.

Having talked previously about some strategies including using compounded medications, using yummy foils to disguise pills and capsules, and even using a game of sorts, there's one thing that I will say is vital to keep in mind: we need to keep the act of the pet actually getting the medication neutral or fun. As I said, in addition to the pharmaceuticals that are prescribed—primarily for geriatric pets or those cats with renal disease—nutraceuticals and supplements of varying forms are common, not to mention that it's not unusual for a pet to have a handful of them in their regimen. These pets are usually the most difficult to medicate or offer supportive care, like subcutaneous fluids, for various reasons. It can be easy to get caught up in trying to get everything that's prescribed on schedule, and to get stressed out while doing that. 

I find that there is a dual approach to mitigate this: remember that you and your pet are going to have 'off' days, and quite honestly, there are some of the things that are prescribed, like the supplements or nutraceuticals, that won't make that much of a difference if they are skipped. In fact, my philosophy is such that if you need to fight with a pet or get stressed out to administer them, those meds really are not worth it. Instead, I suggest, if your primary, emergency, or specialty vet hasn't done this yet, ask them to list the medications and other things they're prescribing in order of importance that they are to be given in the discharge or examination report that they'll be typing up to give you as you leave.

Yes, I know that it can seem just as easy to talk about it in the exam room, and we should be of course, but as we know that can be stressful setting and those details can slip our mind once we arrive home. Having that information handy on the report once we're at the helm, especially when we have a million other things on our mind, can make all the difference. 

Giving the meds that will offer the most benefit and comfort to your pet will provide you the most peace of mind, bolster your overall ability to care for them and as importantly—keep that human-animal bond intact.  

Lorrie Shaw is a Certified Professional Pet Sitter, Certified Pet Loss and Grief Companion, and owner of Professional Pet Sitting, where she specializes in ancillary pet palliative and pet hospice care. She's also a member of Doggone Safe (where she completed the Speak Dog Certificate Program), as well as the International Association of Animal Hospice and Palliative Care, Pet Sitters International, Pet Professional Guild, International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (supporting member) and Ann Arbor Area Pet Sitters. Lorrie can be found at She tweets at @psa2.

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