So I was visiting with a friend when she decided it was time to pill her dog. This was something new for her and she had questions. “What should I put the pill in?” She’d used peanut butter once before when she gave her dog some medicine. I shrugged. That’s ok. Told her I use bread with my dogs. Bread is something I usually have on hand, it’s cheap, and makes disgusting balls to mold around things like pills. My dogs would crawl through fire for a crust of bread. She opened her fridge (maybe she was out of peanut butter?) and called back from within its depths : “what about cheese?” “Sure”, I said. She extracted herself from the refrigerator, bringing two slices of cheese with her. Pre-sliced orange cheese. Gotcha. Least it wasn’t in a can (and yes, I ate cheese whiz from a can growing up. Still here). Then she selected one slice and began to wrap up the pill. Sure seemed to be taking a while. The dog was starting to drool and I was my usual impatient self so I reached across to just mush it up, for heaven’s sake, no need to be dainty. In my expert hands the cheese completely crumbled and fell away from the pill. I stared. “What kind of cheese IS this?” I asked suspiciously. She glanced over at me. “Tillamook.” Tillamook? I reeled. Tillamook is some serious cheese. What happened to American Kraft? Where was the CAN, man? This was uncharted territory. Done trying to make silly putty out of real cheese, I simply reached down, opened her dogs’ mouth and pushed the pill and cheese crumbles in, letting the dog lick the last crumbs off my palm.
Real cheese, what a crazy idea. Invalidated my entire childhood’s culinary experiences!
Sigh. Isn’t that the darndest thing? But I actually do find myself giving all sorts of recommendations on how to deliver medication to a pet. For many of my clients it’s fairly simple : they have a time tested treat that they can hide medication within and especially with the larger breeds of dogs and any garbage hound, down the hatch it goes. Medicine is a treat. For little dogs and those with pushed in faces and cats and birds and turtles and coyotes it can be surprisingly difficult to actually deliver the medication to its intended patient. Think about it. The brachycephalic breeds of dogs (Pugs, Bostons, Bulldogs) have all the body parts of a regular dog, just compressed into about 20% of the space. There’s no extra room in their mouth and they choke and turn blue if you try to get anything past them. Little dogs suffer from Napoleon Complex – they bite you if you try to force something on them. They know the Alligator Roll, too.
Cats? Hoo-boy, cats. We carry one medication for cats stocked in four forms: a tiny tablet, a chewable “gourmed” form, as a liquid and finally as a topical “transdermal” preparation. Yikes. Cat owners in particular are warned not to “dry pill” their cat, meaning do NOT shove a pill down your cat’s throat and forget about it. The pill or capsule may stick partway down, lodging in the folds of the esophagus. Without food or liquid to carry it down to the stomach, the medication may adhere and cause serious inflammation. Most people have experienced the feeling at least once and don’t wish to repeat it. That’s why we swallow our meds with a glass of water. Esophagitis can affect a cats ability to swallow and in extreme cases lead to strictures or scar tissue in the esophagus. I often recommend that people be prepared to follow a pill with a syringe of warm water. This also helps cleanse the mouth of any aftertaste, making the experience more palatable (very helpful if you must repeat the medication in a few hours!). Feeding canned food afterwards is also effective. Many owners purchase special treats, some with a pocket to house the medication, to pill their pets. Since medication in some form is almost inevitable for most dogs and cats, keep that in mind during training. Stay ahead of the game. And just to keep the record straight, the only cheese I eat out of a can these days has the word “Nacho” emblazoned across it.
Christine B. McFadden, DVM