The Doctor’s Directions for Your Cat: Are You Following Them?

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You've got your cat in one hand, a box of pills in the other, and your veterinarian's instructions running through your head. You suddenly realize that taking your pet to the vet was the easy part.

For many, giving their cat medication prescribed by their veterinarian is intimidating, especially after a trip to the vet. The last thing he wants is to be forced to swallow a pill.

But giving your pet his medication exactly as directed is crucial to his health and happiness. While this may sound obvious, consider this: many people have trouble following their own doctor's instructions on taking medication. With pills that are taken monthly, there is the possibility of simply forgetting. This is a common problem with once-a-month preventatives that keep your pet free of heartworms.

Heartworm is very dangerous to your pet. Dogs are more likely to be infected than cats. Heartworms are common parasites spread by mosquitoes. If they infect your pet, they can cause heart disease and organ failure.

A Helping Hand

Owners who do not give prescribed medication as instructed have a "compliancy issue" – for some reason they are not following the directions that can keep their pets happy and healthy. In the case of heartworm or flea medication, it is important that your pet receive the correct dosage once a month. If you forget, call your veterinarian. Depending on when you last gave your pet his medication, you may need to bring him in to be tested for heartworms. (It may be dangerous to give your pet heartworm preventative if he is already infected.) NEVER give a double dose to make up for the missed dosage.

Veterinary clinics and some companies offer programs to help you and your pet stay on track. For instance, drug companies such as Novartis (maker of Program®, Interceptor® and Sentinel®) offer a free online "tickler."

The tickler is easy to use and convenient, allowing pet owners to record their pets' vital statistics, date of the last dosage and other information. Every month, owners receive an email reminding them when the next dosage is due and when it is time to refill the prescription.

If you are not online regularly enough to receive timely reminders, you can fall back on a less-technological approach: Try pairing the scheduled dosage with something you have to do at the same time each month, like paying the mortgage or rent. This may cause you to dread the approach of the end of the month, but at least you'll remember when to give the medication.

The pills themselves have been improved. Many are flavored, which makes it easier for owners to get their cats to take them. Whenever your veterinarian prescribes medication, you should remember to ask the following questions (these questions may not pertain to all prescriptions):

  • When do I give the medication?
  • What is the interval between doses?
  • What is the correct dosage?
  • How do I administer the dosage?
  • Are there any restrictions in giving the medication with food?
  • When should I expect to see improvement?
  • How do I spot side effects?

    Learning how to medicate your pet can often rise to the level of an art form, if you know what to do and can predict the behavior of your pet. There are a number of methods, depending on the type of medication – pill versus liquid, eye drops, ear medications and so on. For a general overview on giving your cat pill medication, you can start by reading the story How To Give Pill Medication to Your Cat.

    • Giving your pet his medication exactly as directed is crucial to his health and happiness.

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