Monday, March 27, 2017

DIY Pet Pill Pusher for Cats

Dogs are easy to give pills to - toss them a few treats and then the pill wrapped in a bit of lunch meat ... snarf, and it's gone.
Cats are different. When one of our cats, a muscular 9-pound adult, needed medication  twice a day for 10 days we quickly realized that we needed tools as well as hands.
They'll be too busy on Facebook to find me here!

So I made a pill pusher to make the process easier for us and her.

  • 1ml plastic syringe, also called "dosing syringe". This is used for oral doses, not injections.  Ask your vet or a local pharmacy for one.
  • Soft slightly stretchy tubing.  The tan latex tubing used for slingshots is good, if you can't get surgical tubing, but it has to be soft to avoid scratching the cat's mouth. The white vinyl tubing shown here was left over from some project I don’t remember.
  • Something to cut the barrel of the syringe without squishing it out of round.  I used pruning clippers meant for plants.

Making the pill pusher:

  1. Pull the plunger back an inch so you don't cut it accidentally, but the plunger tip can support the walls of the barrel as you cut.
    Cut the barrel of the syringe just above the tapered tip of the syringe. 
    Where to cut.
    Notice the plunger can be depressed completely after the cut.
  2. Cut the tubing long enough that it will completely cover the plunger when the plunger is completely depressed, and with enough length to fit securely onto the barrel.
    Tubing length.
  3.  Slide the tubing onto the barrel of the syringe, so the tip of the plunger will be covered by the tubing when the plunger is completely depressed.
    Assembled pill pusher
  4. Pull the plunger out 1/2 inch or so, insert a pill and PRACTICE the popping before you grab the cat.
TIP: Coating the pill with a bit of butter or salad oil will keep the bitter taste of some medications from annoying the cat.

TIP 2:  This does not work well with capsules. The plunger usually pokes a hole in the capsule instead of ejecting it. You would need a flatter tip for capsules.

Variations for Pill Size

This holds a pill about the size of a 200mg ibuprophen  tablet.  For larger pills, make a vertical slit in the tubing like a bird's beak and place the pill in the beak. 

Using the pill pusher:

I've watched the YouTube videos on how to give a pill to a cat, and I have seldom had a cat that cooperative, especially when they are getting pills 2 or 3 times a day for a couple of weeks. My cats will scrabble backward and sideways to escape, scratch with front and hind claws and in general resist like only a cat can.  Even wrapped in a towel they can wriggle away.

NOTE: Have the loaded pill popper within easy reach.

If I do not have a helper, I kneel on the floor and immobilize the cat's body between my knees, facing away from me. My feet are blocking any backward escape and my legs keep the cat facing forward and prevents the powerful rear claws from coming into play - wear long pants and shoes for protection.

One hand firmly holds the cat's head from the top, thumb and middle fingers just behind the fangs, and lifts the head to partly open the mouth. The other hand pries the cat's lower jaw down and inserts the pill (or the tip of the pusher) behind the curl of the tongue.

If I have a helper, we use a counter or table. The helper grasps the cat's shoulders and places the cat's body between the helpers forearms, with the cat's butt against the helper's body to keep them from backing off the table.

Then the person giving the pill has both hands free, one to tip the head back and the other to pry down the lower jaw and inserts the pill (or the tip of the pusher).

Following the pill:

Treats, of course. A tiny bit of whatever the cat likes most helps a bit the next time you have to do this.
Back to the important things, like finding out what that striped thing is attached to.

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