Minitablets for cats could improve the compliance of feline patients in the future. All cat owners know that giving their pet a pill is no simple task. Cats are stubborn enough to resist taking a tablet and clever enough to avoid them if mixed in with food.
Minitablets are much smaller, compressed pills only a few millimetres in size and research shows they have the potential to make medication time easier. Jaana Hautala, University of Helsinki, MSc (Pharmacy) investigated the use of minitablets in her dissertation ‘Improving the Palatability of Minitablets for Feline Medication’ 1.
Through future research, Jaana suggests that it is possible to create commercially manufactured, palatable minitablets for cats.
The Problem With Oral Medications
The current veterinary medicines market is surprisingly lacking in registered drugs made with feline palatability in mind. In fact, vets are known to prescribe flavoured dog medicines for feline patients. The problem with prescribing canine medications is getting the correct dosage at home can be tricky.
For a cat to take medication easily, the taste must be appealing. Cats are easily put off taking medication if it has an unpleasant taste, smell, shape or even texture.
To make matters more difficult, the active ingredients in a lot of medications is bitter tasting, which instantly deters the cat. Bitter medications are also more difficult to hide in food, as cats will simply eat around the hidden pill.
Cats are impartial to sugar, so the sugar coatings used to coat some medications and mask their taste are also ineffective.
Most importantly, it is very difficult to medicate an unwilling cat! Although, a cat can be restrained to administer a tablet, there is no guarantee they will swallow it. Look out for some tips on giving medication to cats below.
Developing Palatable Minitablets for Cats
In her dissertation, Jaana looked at various types of placebo tablets to establish a baseline of palatability. Through home trials with volunteers, she found that minitablets would be taken with food. Owners involved in the study also commented that the minitablets were easier to handle.
The next step in the study was to investigate methods of improving the palatability of the minitablets. The goal being to create a medication that would be readily taken by the cat. A selection of flavourings were chosen that would create an appealing smell and taste.
Amino acids (known as meat precursors) including L-methionine and L-leucine and vitamin B1 (found in yeast extract) were promising candidates.
Using current polymer film coating techniques, it was possible to incorporate these flavourings into the coating of the minitablets. However, the flavourings could only be added in small quantities (around 2%) before the minitablets became brittle. Such a low flavouring percentage would not be enough to mask even mildly bitter medications.
A new area of pharmaceutical research called atomic layer deposition (ALD) looked promising. Originally a technique used to create protective layers in electronics, ALD is used to create extremely thin surface films.
A thin, flavoured, ALD layer could mask the taste of the tablet and incorporate palatable flavours. The future of ALD for coating tablets and creating palatable medicines was highlighted for future research.
Palatable minitablets for cats are not here yet, but they will come. The commercial potential for is too large for veterinary pharmaceutical companies to ignore.Study shows minitablets are a possible solution to the tricky task of giving pills to cats. Click To Tweet
Tips for Medicating a Cat
If the Medication is Safe to Give with Food:
- Wait until your cat is hungry!
- Hide the tablet in a small amount of food and offer this to your cat.
- If adding the pill to a whole meal, check the tablet is well hidden and not left behind after the cat has finished eating.
- If allowed, try crushing the tablet and mix with food. Ensure your cat eats the whole meal so they get the full dose (and keep other cats away if necessary).
Restraint Techniques for Manual Administration:
- Restrain cat on a non-slip surface or swaddle in a towel.
- Gently open their jaw and tilt the head back.
- Place the pill as far back as possible on the tongue, close the jaw and wait for the cat to swallow.
- Gentle rubbing of the throat may help your cat swallow.
- If your cat licks their lips or nose, this indicates the tablet has been swallowed.
Handy Tools to Help:
A pill giver like this one, can make giving your cat their medication easier. By helping you get the pill at the back of the mouth easier, your cat is more likely to swallow. The further back the pill is, the more difficult it is for your cat to do anything other than swallow their medication.
Touted as the original smart treat, Pill-Pockets are a way of disguising your cat’s medication in food. They are simply treats, with a small insert in the centre to allow you to place a pill. You can try this at home without the need for these treats by placing the pill inside a chunk of soft cat food meat or jelly.
See icatcare for more tips on giving medication to your cat.
Featured Image – Pills, Grumpy-Puddin; Vector Credit: Vecteezy.com
- Saila Savolainen, Helena Telkänranta, Jouni Junnila, Jaana Hautala, Sari Airaksinen, Anne Juppo, Marja Raekallio, Outi Vainio. A novel set of behavioural indicators for measuring perception of food by cats. The Veterinary Journal, 2016; 216: 53 DOI: 10.1016/j.tvjl.2016.06.012 ↩