How to give liquid medication to a cat

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Hi, my name is Dr. Uri Burstyn.

I'm a veterinarian in Vancouver BC

and I'd like to welcome you to my series of practical skills for pet owners.

Claudia and I are here to talk to you today about a much requested topic

of how to administer liquid oral medication to cats.

Now I already have a video on how to give pills to cats

but veterinarians often prescribe liquid medications to felines

and we're gonna talk a little bit about why, and then we're gonna show you the how.

But before we do that, please hit like and subscribe below.

And don't forget to squish that bell notification button

so that you get updates whenever I upload a video or do a live stream.

And off we go!

So Claudia, here is an awesome little cat.

She can be quite wriggly though.

And when it comes to medicating cats,

when cats get sick, like all of us

it's really important to take your medication on time

and unfortunately, not all cats understand this

and not all cats are terribly cooperative about taking their meds.

And sometimes giving a liquid form of a medication

is much easier than giving a pill.

Now this is not always the case.

Some cats are easier to medicate by pill.

Some cats are easier to medicate by liquid.

It is just good to have options.

Now there's also, just for general information,

there's a couple other ways to get medication into a cat as well.

Pills and liquid are the obvious oral routes.

There are also transdermal formulations

which are typically pastes that you can actually rub,

usually on any part of the skin that doesn't have hair,

usually on the inside of the ear in cats.

So usually on the inside of the ear in cats,

right in there that will get absorbed

They have their own pros and cons.

There are palatable pastes that some compounding pharmacies make.

But giving those is essentially the same as giving a liquid medication

so you'll be able to see how to do that today.

And of course, there's also injections and

other more technical ways of getting meds into your patient, but

the oral route is always the simplest, easiest, and cheapest.

and most of the time, with the majority of cats, with a bit of practice, you can do it.

Giving medication to a cat,

whether it's liquid, or pill, or transdermal, is a skill.

And like any other skill,

it's hard the first couple times you do it and then it becomes easy.

So you just stick with it, practice and

I promise you that 99% of the time,

unless you have that one in a hundred cat that is just impossible to handle,

you will find medicating them to be easy and simple

with just a little bit of know-how and a lot of practice.

So one way in which veterinarians will try to make your life easier-

I'm just gonna let Lancelot out.

Mr. Lance wandered by.

And like a proper cat he's standing in the doorway half in, half out of the room.

Nope, nope, he now wants to be in the room.

Don't stare at Claudia. Get outta here.

Bye Lance! [Laughs]

So here's the tools you'll need to give your cat liquid medication.

Now most vets will try to make it easier on you

and try to give you the smallest volume of drug they can.

This will be limited by two factors:

One is just the concentration of the medication

and how little of a volume you can get away with.

The other one is the taste,

because we often compound medications

using some flavor or... to mask-

-to mask the taste of the drug,

one advantage of giving medications in capsule or pill form

is that often that they're coated and they don't have any taste

whereas medications and drugs are often quite bitter

or unpleasant-tasting otherwise.

And when you do use liquid medications,

you quite regularly have to compound them into something.

You know, chicken paste or

even something simple as glycerin syrup just to

kind of mask the taste and texture and make it a little bit more palatable,

meaning to make it taste good enough that a cat will take it without objecting to it.

And usually you will get medication

and you will get it in a bottle and you'll get either a 3 mil syringe

or a 1 mil syringe to administer it.

And it's important to know the difference.

So a 1cc syringe

contains a maximum volume of 1 mil of medication.

And it's broken up into 0.1 mil gradations.

So this is half a mil, this is 1 mil,

this is 0.1 mil.

A 3cc syringe will have a total volume of 3 mils.

So this is 3 mils.

You'll probably never give this much to a cat,

because the problem with larger volumes too is you get a lot of spillage

and your drug administration isn't as reliable.

This is 1 mil, this is half a mil.

This is a very small volume that you should probably use a 1cc syringe for.

So you have to know-

You have to make sure you have the right kind of syringe.

Hopefully your veterinary team will show you exactly how to use it.

But these are the two kinds of syringes you're likely to come across

when orally medicating cats.

So we try to give you the smallest volume possible to get the job done.

And the next step is to draw up the correct amount!

I have a little kidney dish of water here and I'm just gonna draw up...

Let's say around 0.2ccs. Pretty easy volume to administer.

Now like I said, one of the major issues

with giving a larger volume of liquid medication to a cat

is you do get some spillage.

The other thing to be aware of is, because cats can often taste liquid meds,

more than they will a capsule or pill,

you may get this very alarming foaming phenomenon.

Now when cats taste something that they find unpleasant or noxious,

they can foam at the mouth like a rabid dog.

Just a dramatic, dramatic, just salivate like crazy. The mouth foams.

It looks terrifying to the owner.

So sometimes I get owners calling me like wondering what the heck happened.

It's not harmful. It's not a bad thing

It just means the cat tasted something they didn't like

and they really object to it, and so they just foam up.

To avoid this happening,

you just need to get the medication to the back third of the tongue.

Inevitably this happens

when that bad tasting medication hits the front of the tongue,

and the cat reacts poorly to it,

and then they may sort of avoid medication in the future.

So the trick here, just like when giving the pill-

and you can look at the "How to give a cat a pill" video

that I published some time ago for cross reference-

is always to get the medication, whether it's a pill or liquid,

to the very, very back of the tongue. So...

Now that we draw up our medication,

we're gonna position ourselves for success,

and I feel this is a very, very important principle in veterinary medicine.

You always want to position yourself for success.

In this case, positioning yourself for success

means having your little cat facing away from you.

If you're right-handed like me,

you're gonna use your left hand

for cat, and your right hand for syringe.

Usually I just hold it like this with my index finger

Bigger syringe is just as easy. Hold it like that.

Gonna put this in the cat's mouth and you're gonna give it the meds.

Now the technique here is very, very similar to "How to give a cat a pill".

You want them pointing, looking up at the ceiling.

You wanna deliver the medication to the very very back of the throat,

and then you want to close their mouth

and point their chin at the ceiling for a count of three.

So allow me to demonstrate.

Cat positioned.

Now, I always sweep the whiskers back and kind of hold them by their top lips.

Medication in. Back of the tongue.


One, two, three.

Just like that, all done.

Cat medicated.

Like I said, it's a skill.

First couple of times you do it it's difficult and then it becomes easy.

So let me demonstrate one more time.

Whiskers swept back.

Cat up.

You work the pill- you work the syringe into the side of the mouth.

Just till they start opening. Squirt to the back of the mouth.

One, two, three. Stroke their little chin. Easier to swallow.

And medication has been administered.

So that is how you give a cat liquid meds.

Now honorable mention goes to one particular medication

that cats often get called buprenorphine.

This is a very common painkiller used in cats.

It also comes in liquid formulation

but the cool thing about buprenorphine,

is that it gets absorbed through the mucous membranes

of the tongue and the gums

so a cat doesn't even need to swallow it.

And now when I give buprenorphine I use exactly the same technique.

But if you have a difficult to handle or aggressive cat,

Excuse me, Claudia. You're so difficult to handle.

You can actually just kind of squirt it in the side of their mouth.

If you guess, you'd get away with much sloppier administration

than you do with most liquid meds.

And in really angry cats,

you can even wait for them to open their mouth to hiss at you

and you squirt it into their mouth.

That's something you often do in the hospitals or in shelters

when you're working with really, really anxious aggro cats.

Not something that most owners have to deal with but just so you know.

Medications absorbs through the mucous membranes

you can just be a lot of sloppier about administrating them

and they'll still do the job.

So in terms of pitfalls there really aren't that many like I said before.

If you hit the front of the tongue and the medication doesn't taste good,

you will get this dramatic foaming effect.

You might also just find the cat will just drool out

or spit out a portion of the medication dose.

This can be avoided by just giving the liquid meds to the very back of the throat

and just pointing that chin at the ceiling for a count of three.

Thank you very much, Claudia.

You've been a really, really generous little demonstration cat.

Just done wonderfully.

I'm gonna give you a little pat on the bottom. Good cat. Good cat, yes.

Squish you.

Oh, yeah, of course if they're wriggling and trying to get away from you,

you can squish them.

But positioning yourself for success, again.

I think I'm gonna close this video with just emphasizing that again.

Positioning your cat correctly is the absolute key

to having a good experience at this.

Don't try to do it with them in any sort of angle, awkward angle

where you're reaching around them or have to really, really contort yourself.

You know, they'll just back up and you'll lose the cat, you'll lose the battle.

Just try to have them- as close to facing away from you as possible.

it just really lets you be tucked into your left arm if you're right-handed like me.

And this really lets you just manipulate them

and my right hand is ready for squishing until I grab the med.

Bam. Cat medicated.

Well I hope you found that to be educational and helpful.

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I look forward to making more videos like this and until next time,

have fun with your pets and I'll see you again.