how to apply pet skin medication

Vector graphic of a pet skin medication ointments

Get hands-on with ointments, lotions, and other good-for-your-pet goo

Topical medications are designed to be smoothed directly onto the skin. Your veterinary team will demonstrate how to apply your cat or dog’s medication, and give you specific instructions on what to do. (And remember, these instructions are for skin care — ears need different care.) Not all pets love the feeling of their skin meds, so don’t hesitate to ask your veterinary team if you have questions or need help.

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Five steps to dog and cat skin med success

Vector graphic of different types of pet skin medications

  1. Have everything you need nearby and ready to go.
  2. Moisten a cotton ball with the prescribed amount of medication.
  3. Speaking gently to your pet, rub medication gently in a circular motion onto their skin. 
  4. Let the meds absorb or dry before letting your pet lick the area.
  5. Carefully wash your hands. 

Even if meds taste yucky, pets may try to lick their treatment off before it dries or is absorbed. (You may see them foaming or drooling to get rid of the taste.) To avoid this, try distracting them with a favorite toy or small treat while the meds do their work.

Scrub a dub, meds applied in the tub

Some medications are applied before a shampoo, or as part of a bathing routine. If that’s the case for your pet, we’ve got tips on making it easier.

See how to give pets a bath

When to call the vet


When your pet point-blank refuses

Safety first! If your pet absolutely refuses to let you apply their medications, reach out to your veterinary team to see if there are other options to help treat your pet.

You’re applying the meds, but not seeing much improvement

Skin conditions can be tricky to pinpoint and resolve. Always feel free to follow up with your veterinary team if any recommended treatment isn't fixing the problem.

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