What is the Best Tactic for Administering Long-Term Medications to Cats?

 |  Jan 10th 2011  |   8 Contributions


Dog catphoto 2009 Kevin Dooley | more info (via: Wylio)
My 5-year-old cat was recently diagnosed with hyperthyroidism. After discussing the options for treatment with my vet, we decided to treat it with a pill which needs to be administered twice a day and will be necessary for the rest of his life.

My cat refuses to eat any kind of soft treat that would be easy to hide the small pill in. I did get some "pill pockets" but he won't eat them without me forcing it into his mouth. If this was a temporary condition, I wouldn't be that concerned, but doing this twice a day for the rest of his life is not appealing. I'm afraid he's going to start hiding from me when it is time for his pill! Do you have any tips for administering medicatation to a reluctant feline? I can't put it in his food because I'm afraid he'll get finicky about it, plus I have another cat who eats anything his brother leaves behind. Any tricks you can suggest would be very appreciated!

Thanks!

Diane
Chicago IL

Administering medications to cats is in many cases legendarily difficult. Most cats simply don't consider swallowing a pill to be a prudent behavior. Once they start resisting their medicine the situation usually deteriorates steadily. I have seen many cases in which the bond between cat and owner was affected. I have seen many more cases in which the owner simply gave up and did not administer the medication.

Hyperthyroidism is a serious disease. Cats with the condition need to be treated. Fortunately, Diane, you have a few options.

Methimazole, the medication that is used to treat hyperthyroidism, is widely available in compounded formulations. Special pharmacies (such as Roadrunner, which is located in Arizona but will ship medications anywhere in the USA) can prepare the drug as a flavored liquid or tablet. Many (but of course not all) cats will not resist medications when they taste like tuna, liver, or chicken.

Methimazole and many other medications also can be compounded into gels that are applied to the inside of the ear. The medication is absorbed through the skin. In an ideal world this would eliminate the need to administer oral medications. However, between individuals there is a significant amount of variation in this so-called transdermal absorption. That said, if you are diligent about testing your cat's thyroid level, you and your vet may be able to devise a dose of transdermal medication that is effective.

Although many cats require twice-daily methimazole, many others do well by receiving a higher dose once daily. This means administering medication only half as often, and it is an option that I recommend exploring with your vet.

Finally, you should know that hyperthyroidism does not always mean a lifetime of medication. A procedure known as radioiodine therapy often can lead to a permanent cure. If I were in your shoes, I would seriously consider the procedure. After radioiodine treatment most cats do very well without any medications whatsoever.

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