A veterinarian offers a pill to a cat.

Cat Medications

If your cat has recently been prescribed a medication by your veterinarian, you likely turned to the internet for more information. Doing your due diligence is part of your role as a good pet parent, and our job as veterinarians is to provide you with as much education as we can. The veterinarians here at Veterinary Medical Center answered FAQs on cat medications and shared those facts with you below.

While the information below is accurate, it’s always best to talk to your own veterinarian about any questions you may have on how to best care for your cat, including their medications. If your cat needs a veterinarian in or near Union City, CA, we’d be thrilled to help ensure they’re getting the right medications for what’s ailing them. Give us a call at (510) 441-8500 today to schedule their first appointment.

What guidelines does the veterinary industry follow to determine if medications are safe and effective for treating cats?

As with human medicine, the FDA and the EPA both regulate the medications that we prescribe for your animals. Some of them are made specifically for animals, and others are used in the human world. We also have a lot of research that has been conducted over the years to ensure that the dosings for those medications are safe and effective and that the side effects, if any, are minimal.

Cat inspecting a pill in a person's hand

What are the different types of cat medications used to treat their illnesses?

There are a ton of cat medications on the market. We have everything from meds to help with hairballs to prescription medications to treat various diseases, including thyroid disease and kidney disease. Those are two of the more common conditions that we can see in cats. There are medications that we use for inflammation and pain, like steroids.

There are also things like antifungals, topicals, and flea, tick, and heartworm prevenatives. It can be difficult to get cats to take pills. But some prescriptions can be in liquid form or others that can potentially be in transdermal form, where a lotion with medication that goes on their ear. That's always nice when there are alternative options, as it's not so traumatic for either party.

Just as with humans, there are times when cats need to take antibiotics. If your cat has a bacterial infection, especially if they like to be outside and get into fights with other cats, they may come in with an abscess. They might need antibiotics and medications to reduce swelling and help with pain control.

Antihistamines can also be beneficial for your cat if they do a lot of allergy-related sneezing, although sometimes that's the underlying viral problem, which could also be beneficial.

If your pet's vomiting, we want to give certain types of anti-nausea, anti-vomiting type of medications. And when it comes to the previously-mentioned hairball relief, we give a supplement of laxatone to help with that, along with husbandry, grooming, and possibly dietary changes.

Are prescriptions generally more effective than over-the-counter medications?

Prescriptions are generally more effective than over-the-counter medications. Research has shown us that there's been a lot of resistance with some of the over-the-counter flea and tick products. The prescription ones are much more effective at killing those fleas and ticks. And that goes for a lot of the other prescriptions that we use, as prescriptions are not only more effective than OTC products, but they’re also safer.

Cats are also quite sensitive to many things, so it's best to know what you're giving rather than just buy something over-the-counter that might hurt them.

Do you have any tips on how to give my cat their medicine?

It can be very challenging to give cats medication, and every cat is a little bit different as far as their personality and what they'll tolerate. We know dogs are usually very food motivated, but cats are much less so. If cats know the medicine is in there, they will go around it.

The ways in which you can give your cats medicine are as follows:

  • If your cat is food-motivated, you can put the pill in a treat.
  • Use a pill gun, which is a tiny device where you can put the pill in the end, and that can hold their mouth, pull open their jaw, and put it in that way.
  • The transdermal formulation that you rub on the inside of the cat’s ear.
  • You can also get the medication compounded through a pharmacy, and that has been extremely helpful for a number of our cases, as we can do chicken chews or liquids or that sort of thing to make it a little easier.
  • Use a pill popper, which is something soft you can stick a pill down into pretty easily—it’s not going to injure anything when you put it in the back of their mouth and pop it down the back of their throat.

It's a good idea to have a blanket or pillowcase for cats, which you can contain the cat in. As we know, cats love to use their claws and their teeth just to get away from you; even if they do not mean to injure you, it still hurts. And so, being able to wrap them up and have their head sticking out will help protect you and hopefully keep them a little calmer.

Can my cat get what they need from diet alone?

It depends on the problem, but if they have a medical issue, then diet alone will not fix that. But if you are feeding your pet a well-balanced diet, you can help prevent many health issues.

Cats sometimes can be very finicky about what they eat, but in particular, hyperthyroid disease can be treated by diet alone if your cat will eat that food and if you can feed your cat exclusively that food. Many great urinary diets can help cats with urinary issues.

Does your cat need to have vitamins? Not necessarily as long as they're eating a well-balanced diet that includes dry and canned cat food made by reputable pet food companies. But you need to make sure that they have a balanced diet and not just eat a bunch of treats, which many cats would prefer to do.

Why is it important to avoid self-diagnosing my cat’s need for pain medication?

Cats are very stoic creatures. That comes from their ancestry—by the time they start showing signs of pain, they're probably very painful. They've probably been hiding this up until the point that they can't hide it anymore, so you need to bring them to your veterinarian to figure out what the source of the pain is and get it treated. If you have an older cat, there are many metabolic diseases they can be experiencing, such as thyroid disease and kidney disease. Or your cat can also have arthritis or cancer. There are many things we need to rule out and make sure that, number one, medication will be a safe option for them. We get a dosing schedule together for them, and we make sure we're addressing all of the needs in one fell swoop.

Also, pain medication for humans can be fatal to cats, especially Tylenol, a complete no-go for cats. Giving over-the-counter pain medications or pain medications that you don't know will be effective for your cat can do more harm than good. So you always want to consult with your veterinarian at the least. Still, your veterinarian will need to do an exam and make sure what will be most effective and safest for your cat.

Cat inspecting a pill in a person's hand

Why is early detection so crucial in getting a good result from cat medications?

As previously mentioned, cats will often hide any form of illness until they absolutely can't. So if your cat stops eating, shows any signs of loose stool, or is laying around more than usual, take that as an early sign that they may have something sinister lurking inside that needs to be checked out. If your cat is showing symptoms, they’re unfortunately probably already pretty sick. And so the earlier that we can get your cat in, do some overall wellness blood work, and perform a good exam, we can find things much sooner. If we detect an illness early on, there's a much greater chance of us being able to help your cat and hopefully get them on the road to recovery.

As veterinarians, we know how difficult it can be to get your cat to the clinic, as there can be difficulties with the cat carrier or other challenges, but we are happy to give you suggestions to ensure you get your cat the treatment they need. Never hesitate to reach out to us for advice at (510) 441-8500.

Why should I purchase cat medicines from a veterinarian instead of through an online pharmacy?

When it comes to clients purchasing medications through an online pharmacy, we're not huge fans, and that’s not because of our lack of profit but rather the safety of your cat. We have seen many counterfeit products, whether it be prevention or actual medications, come from online pharmacies. Many online companies also don’t store medications at the proper temperature, rendering them ineffective.

By getting medications from your veterinarian or your veterinarian's associated online pharmacy, you have a guaranteed product that you know will be what your doctor recommends at the dose they're recommending. You're not only helping out your veterinarian, as they will know the medication that you're getting is trustworthy, but you're also helping out your cat by ensuring it's as safe as possible.

If you have additional questions about cat medications, we are here to help! As your dog’s veterinarian in Union City, CA, we would be more than happy to discuss what medications, if any, will help your cat be the healthiest they can be. Give us a call at (510) 441-8500, or drop us an email at [email protected] today.