Pets' lives can be measured in a number of ways. There's the crazy entertaining stage of puppies and kittens, the active prime of life, the calmer stage of the middle-aged pet, and the medication stage that is most often seen in senior and geriatric animals.
I'm currently in the latter stage with my two cavalier King Charles spaniels. It's a stage I've been through many times before. I've had cats that required insulin injections or subcutaneous fluids, a canine amputee who needed pain meds, and dogs who have needed pills, potions, drops and lotions for everything from heart disease and corneal ulcers to skin conditions.
Over the years, one of the most important things I've learned is the importance of timing when giving medications. You can't just give them any old time. If the bottle says every six hours, then it's important to adhere as closely as possible to that schedule for best effects, even if it means staying up until midnight and then getting up again at 6 a.m. for the next dose.
Ask your veterinarian if there's a grace period for giving medication, insulin injections or fluids. My dog Keeper gets one particular pill at 2 p.m. every day. His board-certified cardiologist, Dr Sarah Miller, assured us that it could be given up to two hours earlier or later if we weren't home at the right time.
Sometimes pets need various medications throughout the day. We once had a cavalier who required seven pills daily, some more than once, and all at different times, of course.
That was in the olden days before cellphones and smart speakers, so I programmed my personal digital assistant to give an alarm at the appropriate times. These days, a smart speaker reminds us about Keeper's midday and pre-bedtime pills.
Recently, we used old-school pen and paper to make a chart for the pills, fluids and injections Harper needed throughout the day after hospitalization for a serious kidney infection.
After each one was administered, we checked it off and wrote down the time. When there was a question about whether we needed to continue injections of a particular antibiotic, we were able to go back to the sheet and count the number of days it had been given and determine that she had finished the course.
Checking off the days on a calendar works, too, if you aren't dealing with multiple medications at various times daily. With antibiotics, in particular, it's essential to give them for the entire time prescribed, even if your pet seems "cured" before you've used it all. Don't save the remainder "for next time." Not giving the full amount for the appropriate length of time can lead to antibiotic resistance, making bacteria and fungi more powerful when it comes to defeating the drugs sent to kill them.
With or without food? That's an important question to ask about a pet's medication. Some absorb more quickly if given on an empty stomach. Others, such as NSAIDs, are less likely to cause gastrointestinal upset when there's food in the stomach. Calcium-rich foods such as yogurt can interfere with absorption of some antibiotics.
And pets with sensitive stomachs may do best when medications are given with food, as long as that doesn't affect their efficacy.
Write down what your veterinarian tells you about how to give the medication, or ask for an instruction sheet that you can refer to, especially if you're dealing with multiple meds.