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Medication Compliance




What is Medication Compliance?
Why Compliance Matters
How Cat Hospital of Chicago Helps
Helping Your Cat Feel Comfortable
Giving Pills
Giving Liquid Medications
Call with Questions

What is Medication Compliance?
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As many cat parents know, most felines don't enjoy being given medication, and giving them their medicine can be one of the major challenges of caring for a cat.

But following your Cat Hospital of Chicago veterinarian's orders for time, dose and duration-the length of time the cat must take the medication-is an essential part of the cat's care. Veterinarians call it medication compliance.

Why Compliance Matters
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Failing to provide prescribed medications can have serious, negative effects on your cat's quality of life and long-term health. A few examples:

  • Not providing blood pressure medication as prescribed can lead to detached retinas and blindness, heart disease or stroke.
  • Untreated urinary tract infections can lead to decreased kidney function or kidney failure.
  • Failing to give a cat all of his prescribed antibiotics (the proper number of doses per day for the prescribed number of days) can cause his treatment to stop working altogether and could contribute to antibiotic resistance in the future.
  • Unless hyperthyroidism is properly controlled by medication, a cat could continue to lose weight and be at risk for heart disease or kidney failure.
  • Failing to administer pain medication can cause unnecessary discomfort in the short term, as well as longer-term chronic pain if left untreated. Remember, cats are masters at hiding their pain, so even if your cat doesn't appear to be in pain, she could be concealing it from you. (For more information about how and why cats hide their pain, see "Pain Recognition and Management in Cats" in the Cat Hospital of Chicago online library.)

Fortunately, with a plan and a little practice, most people can help their cats stay on the therapy they need to get, or stay, healthy.

How Cat Hospital of Chicago Helps

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Cat Hospital of Chicago veterinarians will always explain your cat's treatment plan and why it's necessary for your cat's health.

We always try to manage cats' medications to make it as simple as possible for the cat and the cat's owner, by prescribing the best form of medicine. For example, we sometimes recommend injectable medicines because they can be the easiest to give. (Not all medications are made in injectable form, however.) We'll also try to set up a dosing schedule that is good for the cat and fits the owner's schedule as much as possible. When we can, we'll recommend two doses a day instead of three, or even one daily dose.

We also try to offer the form of medication that's easiest for your cat to tolerate and that is available in the dosage your cat needs. In addition to pills, some medications (but not all) are available in:

  • capsules
  • tablets
  • liquids, including some cat-friendly flavors
  • transdermal (applied to the skin) gels
  • compounded chews (medication made up into soft chew treats, in cat-friendly flavors)

When pills are the only option, some can be administered in pill pockets or with a pill gun; a number of pills-but not all-can be mixed with food to make them more palatable.  However, most cats notice any changes to the texture or taste of their food. Many will refuse to eat food that has been mixed with medicine, whether it's crushed tablets, liquid or opened capsules, and they may be leery of eating that food again, even if it is unaltered. Your Cat Hospital of Chicago veterinarian will discuss this option with you if it's viable for your cat's situation.

Helping Your Cat Feel Comfortable

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The most important thing you can do to encourage your cat to take her medicine is to make the experience as positive as possible. Cat Hospital recommends:

  • Be cool. If you're nervous about administering the medication, your cat will sense it, so remaining calm is a key first step.
  • Make your cat feel like she is the one cat special enough to receive the medication, so the dose feels like a reward rather than a punishment. Cats can be trained to see their medication as a positive.
  • Wrap your cat in a blanket or towel as long as it does not add more stress for you or your cat.
  • Give rewards. After giving medication, offer your cat a treat, praise her, comb or brush her or spend extra time playing with her.

Another tip: Enlist a partner to help. If one person holds your cat, it can be much easier for the other to give the medication.

Giving Pills

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If you're giving your cat pills, Cat Hospital of Chicago recommends following these steps:

  • Put one hand on your cat's head so that the head is tilted back slightly. Your cat's head should rest against the palm of your hand, and your thumb and index finger should be immediately behind your cat's fang teeth (long canines).
  • Open your cat's mouth by pushing your thumb and index finger together.
  • In your other hand, hold the pill between your thumb and index finger. Keep your cat's jaw open by pushing the lower jaw down with your middle finger.
  • Put the pill as far back inside your cat's mouth as possible, and then close his mouth quickly.
  • Lightly rub your cat's throat to help him swallow. Gently blowing into his nostrils may help, too. Helping your cat swallow is especially important with pills or capsules because the cat can hide the medication in his mouth and spit it out later.

Most capsules and tablets should be given with water, to prevent the pill from getting stuck in the cat's throat. This is especially important for doxycycline and clindamycin, which are antibiotics that are commonly used to treat infections. Usually, a teaspoon of cool water will help the cat swallow. Or, owners can use a small plunger-available at Cat Hospital of Chicago-to squirt a little water into the cat's mouth.

Giving Liquid Medications
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For liquid medications, the steps are slightly different:

  • Prepare the syringe or dropper first.
  • Place your cat on a countertop or table and gently-but firmly-hold her in place. If your cat is nervous or active, it may be helpful to wrap her in a towel or blanket to help keep her still.
  • With your cat facing away from you, put your right hand around her body and under her chest, so she is resting on top of your hand. Pull her toward you, so your right forearm is helping to hold her in place.
  • Tilt your cat's head up slightly, holding her mouth open.
  • Insert the syringe or dropper into the corner of your cat's mouth and give small amounts of the liquid at a time. Be sure she swallows each portion before administering the rest of the dose.
  • Lightly rub your cat's throat and/or gently blow into her nostrils to help her swallow.

If these positions aren't comfortable for you or your cat, you can also try sitting on the floor with your legs bent at the knees, holding your cat between your legs so she can't move.

Video tutorials on giving medicine to cats, produced especially for cat parents, are available at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine's Partners in Animal Health Website.

Call with Questions
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Visits to your Cat Hospital of Chicago veterinarian are, of course, an important part of your cat's healthcare plan. But for your cat to fully recover from an illness, recuperate from surgery or maintain quality of life with a long-term medical condition, it's essential for your cat's care to continue at home.

Giving the medicine prescribed by your Cat Hospital veterinarian-at the right times and in the right amount-will go a long way toward keeping your cat in the best possible health. If your cat makes it especially difficult to administer medicine, or if you have any other questions, please call us at 773-539-9080.



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