Giving Eye Medications to Pets

By: Celeste Treadway, DVM

TVMA Member
Austin, TX

Published July 2018

There are likely to be times in your pet’s life when you need to administer medications for eye conditions. Having drops or ointments put in the eye may be particularly anxiety-provoking for some pets; the following tips may help make the process easier. Be sure to have your veterinarian thoroughly discuss all medications and instructions with you before you leave the office so he or she addresses all your concerns. Have your veterinarian demonstrate application, especially if you have never used an eye medication before.

Keep It Positive

  • Try to create positive interactions with your pet around the medication process. Praise, stroke or “treat” your pet before and after you administer medicines, so the unpleasant event occurs between enjoyable interactions. Talk to them quietly and gently to reassure them.
  • Try not to medicate your pet in his or her favorite spot to avoid creating a negative association with that place.
  • When it is time to give the medication, find your pet, rather than calling your pet to you.

Use Gentle Restraint Techniques

  • Take your pet to a relatively small area so he or she can’t run from you once you begin the medicating process. If your pet is small, placing him or her on a table or raised surface is helpful.
  • If your pet tries to run away from you, use a leash (dogs) or towel (cats) to gently restrain your pet. Wrapping the pet in a towel may also prevent her from “helping” with her front paws.
  • In some cases, it may be helpful to have your pet sit in a corner facing out to keep him or her from backing away; small dogs or cats can be held in your lap with their rear end toward you.
  • It is helpful to have a second person to hold your pet so you have both hands free to handle the medicine. The second person can administer treats while you are performing the treatment to help distract and reward your pet.

Administering Eye Medications

  • When it is time to administer the medication, have everything you will need at hand, including treats, so you can move quickly through the process. Refrigerated medicines can be carried in a pants pocket until warmed to avoid discomfort. Replace in the refrigerator after use.
  • A useful technique for lessening discomfort is to focus on applying the drop to the sclera (white) of the eye instead of the clear cornea, which is more sensitive. To accomplish this, tip your pet’s nose about 45 degrees toward the ceiling, gently pull the upper eyelid slightly back to expose the white portion of the eye, apply the drop to the white area, then praise and stroke your pet.
  • Another trick for eye drops is to apply the drop when the eye is closed rather than open. To accomplish this, tip your pet’s nose toward the ceiling, and simply apply the drop at the inner corner of the eye, letting the drops deposit in the corner. Keep your pet’s nose facing upward until he blinks while simultaneously praising and stroking him. When the eye blinks open, the drops will run into the eye. You may have to instill an extra drop or two to get the full dose of medication into the eye using this technique.
  • When administering ointment, rather than trying to apply medicine directly from the tube into the pet’s eye, apply the ointment to your clean (freshly washed) finger. Gently roll the lower eyelid out and smear the ointment from your finger onto the inner pink edge of the eyelid. Always avoid touching the eyeball with any part of the bottle or tube; this will help avoid injury or contamination of the medicine.

Finally, if at any point your pet’s eye looks worse or seems more uncomfortable, contact your veterinarian immediately. Be sure to complete the entire course of medication as instructed, even if the eye looks better. If you continue to have difficulty giving the medication despite the above tips, contact your veterinarian to discuss options. Remember that your veterinary team shares your goal of keeping your pet as healthy and happy as possible!

Dr. Celeste Treadway practices veterinary medicine in Austin, Texas.

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