Simple medical treatments: administering treatment to your dog

When a dog is ill, and a diagnosis has been made, the vet will advise the administration of medicines to treat the disease. The ease of administering these will depend on their form.

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Tablets and capsules

Tablets and capsules are the most common form of medication. They are not always easy to administer. Some dogs accept them if they are hidden in a piece of meat, cheese, butter or a treat, while others will eat the food but spit out the tablet. To make sure that the dog swallows the tablet, open the mouth wide, place the tablet at the very back of the throat, close the mouth again and massage the throat to trigger the swallowing reflex. Some medicines are available as palatable tablets.

© Umes - Hermeline/Diffomédia

Administering ear drops

The “L”-shaped anatomy of the dog’s ear means that it is always difficult to administer drops or lotion. To ensure that the entire ear canal is treated, the outer ear should be lifted as high as possible to open the auditory canal as much as possible. A few drops are then instilled whilst preventing the dog from shaking its head. The base of the ear is then massaged (the auditory canal can be easily felt) to enable the liquid to flow into the horizontal part of the canal. Only then can the dog be allowed to shake its head to remove the excess liquid.

Administering oral solutions

Some liquids can be mixed with the dog’s food for easier administration. However, they are not all tasty and some dogs may refuse to eat their food, in which case the liquid should be administered directly into the mouth.

The solution is drawn up into a syringe of sufficient size to enable the full dose to be administered in one go. The end of the syringe is then placed between the back teeth and directed towards the dog's throat. The liquid is then slowly injected into the mouth, making sure that the dog swallows regularly.

Administering eye drops

The treatment for most eye disorders involves the administration of eye drops. To do this, two people are needed; one holds the dog whilst the other administers the treatment. With one hand the eye lids are opened, whilst the second squeezes a drop into the upper corner of the eye, out of the dog’s field of vision. The drops therefore fall onto the top of the eyeball and cover the whole surface of the cornea before being evacuated through the tear ducts.

Applying “spot-on” treatments

Some long-acting drugs are available as a "spot-on" or little pipette which is emptied directly onto the dog's skin. The product is applied between the shoulder blades. The fur should be parted to allow the product to fall directly onto the skin. The product then diffuses across the skin to exert its action systemically.


Injections are most usually given by the vet. There are three possible types: subcutaneous, intramuscular and intravenous. Subcutaneous injections are usually given in the back of the neck or between the shoulder blades. The product is injected just under the skin. Intramuscular injections are usually given in the lumbar muscles, at around three centimetres from the spinal column. This type of injection can be painful if the product is thick; the dog should therefore be firmly held. Intravenous injections are usually given into the cephalic vein (anterior part of the foreleg).

Applying creams

Creams should be applied to clipped, clean skin using gentle massaging movements until completely absorbed. Dogs may find some creams tasty; it is therefore strongly inadvisable to let the dog lick itself.


Cleaning a wound

The fur should be clipped to produce a two centimetre border around the wound to enable good visualisation. The wound is cleaned with a swab (not cotton wool, which sheds small fibres that then become embedded in the wound) and antiseptic soap, or even just simple soap.

A dry dressing can then be applied to prevent secondary infections. After consultation with the vet, the latter may prescribe regular dressing changes and cleaning to encourage rapid healing. Infected wounds often require systemic antibiotic treatment.

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