Readers suggest methods for medicating pets from pill guns to screen doors


April 24, 1993|By Gina Spadafori | Gina Spadafori,McClatchy News Service

Never underestimate the resourcefulness of animal lovers, especially when it comes to "pilling" a pet.

After I wrote about pill-giving techniques, I got notes recommending pill guns for cats. The guns work by fitting the pill into the tip, pushing the small plastic contraption -- it looks like a syringe -- to the back of the pet's mouth and bumping the pill out with the plunger.

The pill gets where it needs to go with less effort and without using a finger to push it past the formidable fangs of an angry, flip-flopping feline. The devices are available in pet-supply stores and catalogs, as well as in the classified section of Cat Fancy and other feline-related magazines. Some vets also carry them.

But by far the most novel letter on the subject came from a reader who likely has invented a new procedure for this difficult pet-care task.

"When I rescued my cat as a neighborhood throw-away he had an abscess and gangrene, needed surgery and had to take several medications for at least three weeks. While he was a mellow cat, he hated taking pills," she writes.

"My husband and I finally figured out that we could have the pills ready, then 'hang' the cat [from his paws] on the screen door to keep his claws busy.

"We then had both hands free to open his jaws, shove the pills in and stroke his throat to induce swallowing. It helped to have our bodies close to the cat to prevent his jumping down."

She concludes by noting that her vet was amazed at her ingenuity. I am, too.

Along the same lines, veterinarian Melissa Gates passes along a tip on getting cats to take mineral oil, which is a good home remedy for hairballs in cats and constipation in both dogs and cats.

"My concern is if an owner is trying to force mineral oil down a struggling cat, it could end up where it shouldn't," she said. "We've seen that situation develop into pneumonia. A better way would be to mix up the mineral oil with a little food."

Of course, some animals actually like mineral oil. In the last weeks of my dog Lance's life, he needed a twice-daily dosing to help him cope with constipation caused by the tumor that would eventually kill him. He loved the stuff so much he'd dance when I got out the bottle and lick every drop off the saucer as though it were chocolate sauce.

But then, I never had any problem giving him pills, either. "Time for your medicine," I'd say, holding out a pill. He'd take it gently and swallow it whole.

Ms. Spadafori is a newspaper reporter and an animal obedience trainer in Sacramento, Calif. Questions about pets may be sent to her c/o Saturday, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278.

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