Friday, January 22, 2010

A Bitter Pill (or Two or Three) to Swallow

It is not easy getting old. My father always told me "Don't get old, Elizabeth." I don't know what choice we have, especially if we like food. I like to eat, and as long as I am able to channel Homer Simpson and say, "Mmm, [fill in the blank with food of choice, like say, pizza or pho or chocolate chip cookies]," I think I'll be okay. Roma was always the same way. Very rarely was that dog off her food. As most of you  know, she'd eat just about anything, including things not so good for her, such as cat poop, ant bait, and rat poison.

So it has been a great shock lately to see her appetite waning. In the past few weeks, there have been days—series of days—where she has not eaten. In fact, she has fled from the bowl as if repulsed. It's not good when she doesn't eat because food has always been her medication delivery system. I have never had a problem giving this dog a pill. I'd wrap it in some cheese or a lump of soft food, and she'd inhale it. So now she has not only gone without food, she's gone without medicine, and that compounds her weakness and her discomfort.

I called the vet and his advice was to give her more medication. I felt he wasn't hearing me. "But she's not eating. How can I give her more medication?" Then I recalled a dog I lived with many, many years ago. He was my roommate's, an Irish wolfhound named Moose, who, despite his great size, could suss out the smallest pill in his food and spit it out. If you wanted to give Moose a pill, you had to open his enormous jaws, toss the pill toward the back of his throat, and then massage his neck to help him swallow it. Of course, Moose had the maw of a lion. Giving him a pill was like bowling. It was almost impossible to miss getting the little round object into the gaping hole at the back of his throat. Also, Moose aimed to please.

Roma is a completely different animal. Still, I had to try in order to alleviate her suffering. Here is what I have had to do: First, I get Roma in a gentle but firm headlock between my knees and use both hands to pry open her mouth by pinching the jaws just behind her still impressive fangs. She fights like a gator, let me tell you, thrashing and bucking. Then, I have to pick up the pill and maneuver it into her mouth, stuffing my hand past the teeth that are gnashing and grinding against my tender flesh and the tongue that is undulating like a black mambo. Finally, I position the pill, snatch my hand away from the snapping jaws, and rub her throat while she chokes and gasps and then runs around the room. Holy moly. One pill down; two to go.

The goal is better living through chemistry, and it seems to be working; she has started eating sliced chicken from my hands. If I continue to get enough medication in her, she may regain her interest in more nutritious dog food. If she eats properly, she may continue to feel better—maybe even well enough to need fewer pills, but let's not get crazy hopeful here.

If anyone has advice about a less strenuous or stressful system of pill administration, I'd love to hear it. One friend suggested rolling the pills in butter first. That makes them tougher for me to hold on to while I am subduing the Roma. Maybe I just need more practice. In any event, thanks for listening. Have a good weekend.

1 comment:

  1. Man. That sounds really difficult. Poor Roma. Poor Zia.

    Would crushing the pills with a mortar & pestle and then stuffing it in the chicken work?

    We had to use one of these on one of our friend's cats once when she was out of town and it worked really well - might it help?


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