Bad vet, good vet…

Before I begin, I should note that I will always be grateful to the “bad” vet for saving Pinga’s life…That said, let’s begin our comparative analysis, which, come to think of it!, could or perhaps SHOULD be applied to our own doctors, too…

Bad Vet:

A bad vet prescribes a drug that has a very common and very scary side effect (I later read about it in about a million Italian animal forums…so yes, it is a VERY common side effect) but gives you absolutely no advance warning about it. So on Sunday evening, completely unaware of the tornado that was about to rip through our house, Stefano and I gave Pinga her first antibiotic. This particular pill couldn’t be crushed and mixed up with a bit of yummy wet food. It had to be thrown down her throat. Period.

The pill was 1. unbelievably huge (hellooo, drug companies, can’t you make SMALL PILLS for small pets???!!!), and 2. incredibly bitter (again, hellooo???), so much so that it had a bright red coating on it. Since Pinga is such a tiny little thing, though, we had to break the pill in half, which meant that part of the bitter white inside was exposed (this is an important detail for what comes later). Anyway, to make a very long story short, we finally–after throwing away four spit-up doses, sigh…–got the pill down her stubborn little throat, using what is called a “pill popper,” which is a very handy device, similar to a syringe. It holds the pill at one end and flattens the cat’s tongue in such a way that she cannot fling the pill back from her throat into her mouth, as cats do, smart little bugs that they are…

Pinga finally swallowed her (fifth) pill. We thought that the worst was over, so, exhausted, we went off to have dinner with my parents. After about 15-20 minutes, Stefano went into the kitchen to get something, and I heard him shout, “Margaret, Margaret!!!, come quickly, Pinga’s got something in her mouth!!!!” 

I dashed into the hall in time to grab Pinga, but there was nothing in her mouth, which instead was completely covered by foam. Stefano and I both thought we had poisoned her and totally panicked, while she looked miserable and kept gnashing her jaws noisily together, producing even more foam, which was dropping all over the place. The other cats were gathered around her, very concerned. What the porcaccia la miseriaccia was happening??? While Stefano rushed her upstairs to our bedroom, I rang the vet clinic.

Signora, it’s normal,” I was told, “it’s simply a reaction to the bitterness of the antibiotic. Don’t worry. If it continues for more than two hours, call us back.”

Wait a second…TWO BLOODY HOURS? IT’S NORMAL? SIMPLY A…REACTION? “Well,” I wanted to scream, “why didn’t you tell me ahead of time that one of the possible side effects of this blasted antibiotic is foaming at the mouth???!!!” At the time, though, I was too worried to be angry, so I just hung up and dashed upstairs to inform Stefano, who was also worried out of his mind.

Stefano and I spent the next 45 minutes on our bedroom floor, watching our little Pinga gnash her teeth and produce mountains of foam…I mean, it was as though she had swallowed an entire bottle of bubble bath. Bubbles were just pouring out of her mouth and onto our bed cover, all over our shirts and on the bedroom/bathroom floors. We kept reminding ourselves that this was a “normal” reaction and tried to keep calm. She finally settled down under our bed, still sporting a Santa Claus beard of foam hanging down to the ground. Slowly, she stopped foaming, shut her exhausted little eyes, curled up into a tiny ball and fell asleep. We cleaned her mouth, relaxed and went back downstairs to finish dinner. This happened on Sunday night…Pinga was fine after a two-hour nap…but oh what a scare she gave us…

Good Vet:

We decided NOT to drive Pinga back to the vet clinic two days later to have the IV line device removed from her right paw. It just didn’t make sense to put her through so much stress—a half hour in the car each way.

There is another vet clinic right around the corner from our house…and in fact, five years ago, one of the vets who works there saved Priscilla’s life (Priscilla’s story is here on the blog). I called this vet…a very nice woman who, after all these years, immediately remembered Priscilla, who was, back then, a wild and ferocious kitten. I was very impressed!

On Tuesday, this vet, with the help of a colleague, deftly removed Pinga’s green bandage and IV line. She and I then discussed Pinga’s case a bit, while Mom was sitting in the waiting room with Pinga. I asked her about this antibiotic, which, by the way, is called “Stomorgyl” (=mainly metronidazole). She said, “Oh yes, foaming is a very common effect. But,” she added, “there are a few things you can try that might reduce or possibly even stop the foaming.”

She told me to put a thin layer of butter on the exposed (bitter) part of the pill. Then, she went on, wrap up the pill and put it in the freezer for a few hours so the butter has time to harden. Cats don’t swallow things the way we do, she explained, so pills get stuck in their throat if you don’t give them something immediately…preferably a greasy something (i.e. not water, as suggested in many YouTube “how to give a cat a pill” videos…). She told me to give her a big dab of hairball remedy and/or some not-too-solid wet food. That would help her swallow the pill, which, once in the stomach and away from the mucous membranes located at the back of her mouth, shouldn’t give her any problems.

So that is what we did on Tuesday night. And, bloody hell!, it really WORKED!!! Pinga swallowed her butter-coated pill, then greedily licked our fingers, which were coated with the paste-like hairball remedy, and also ate some wet food. The pill slipped neatly down her throat and into her stomach, where it could do no harm. She was absolutely fine, and we were immensely relieved.

So that is the difference between a good vet and a bad vet. The bad one just says “oh well, signora, foaming at the mouth is a common side effect.” The good one instead explains WHY the foaming occurs and tells you what you can do to prevent it.

Well, you can bet your baloney sandwich that the following day I called the “bad” vet to tell her what we had done to prevent the horrible foaming reaction (I didn’t mention the other vet, though…you never know…I might have to use the “bad” clinic again). She giggled at first, which annoyed me no end!, but I managed to finish my story. And, believe me, she stopped giggling as soon as I got to the part about Pinga not producing any bubbles at all. I told her sternly to warn her other clients of this common side effect AND also let them know that the foaming COULD be stopped…easily. She agreed…rather meekly, I would like to add. Eh.

Oh wait, something else. Guess HOW MUCH I paid to have Pinga’s device removed by the good vet? (This, by the way, was not an easy thing to do…two vets were involved in the procedure.) Nothing. Not even half a euro…

However, as Mom, Pinga and I were leaving, the good vet announced, with a twinkle in her eye, “hmmm, but for your information, I do love chocolate…” 😉

I guess it will come to no surprise to you to read that we are changing vets…and that we have bought our cats’ NEW (good!) vet a huge amount of chocolate from a famous Tuscan chocolatier called Slitti (see: http://www.slitti.it/)…

A vet who loves chocolate and gives you all sort of practical advice in order for your pet not to suffer…a vet who actually EXPLAINS things to you…what more could you possibly want???

P.S. I took these photos this morning. I am happy to report that Pinga is her normal self…(in photo number three, she is inside her cat tunnel, by the way, and if you look closely you can see the tip of my finger…and yes, she was after my finger…my terrible Pinga…  :-)).

P.P.S.S. Afterthought: would you give your baby an antibiotic that made him/her foam at the mouth? No, didn’t think so. This stuff should either be improved or taken off the market altogether. Just my opinion!

11 Comments

  1. I love your column Margaret. besdies suffering with smoldering myeloma….I have two wonderful little Cavalier King Charles dogs who we are madly in love with. Our oldest just went through surgery, we were so afraid for him because he has heart problems. We ended up taking him to a specialty clinic about 15 minutes from our home outside of Pittsburgh, Pa. I never have witnessed as much love and care for anoimals in my life. I had to take him back for a follow-up on Monday….he couldn’t wait to see them. Ran up to the assitant….kissy-kissy….then the vet…kissy-kissy…..Wow!!! So, I agree…vets…..Drs…..although, I’m not too sure if I would kiss my oncologist, although he has a nice personality for an awful job..He reminds me of Allen Alda from MASH. Well, I’m so happy that your little Pinga is so much better. God Bless all of you!!

  2. I had the same problem with my cat Judy who had the same disease.
    My vet asked a “people” pharmacy to make a liquid suspension of the medication which worked much better. Sounds like it’s doing the trick for Pinga.

  3. Yes, there are good docs and bad docs and it’s a great pity that some of the bad docs have to have human contact OR animal contact… this is a good reminder that doctors, vet or otherwise, are not gods and we should NEVER elevate one to that status… question, question, question.. and dump the one who says, “Would you question God?” Yes, I actually had a doctor ask me that when I was probing for answers on a medical situation.
    Glad the feline force is in full purr now.

  4. Between the illnesses of Pinga and Piccolo, you must be worn to a frazzle! The poor little things…hope they are both feeling fine soon!
    And hope you get to enjoy your parents’ visit soon, too!

  5. I’m really glad she’s ok. Thanks for sharing the bit of info about the pill coating method. I wasn’t aware about the difference in swallowing. I’ll probably remember that forever now.

  6. Thank you so much for this post and the tip about the butter. Just administered two of these tablets to my cat- yup, instant foaming at the mouth (she was fine with her first dose last night).Tomorrow we will be adding butter!

  7. I also had the same problem. I wasn’t warned about the foaming and thought my cat was going to die. it was panic station as the vet had closed. Lucky the secretary answered the phone after so many rings. Thank you so much for the advice which I’m going to try.

  8. Hello Margaret,

    I am sure you will be surprised to discover a comment on a post from six years ago but I need to tell you how helpful your post has been for us dealing with a little senior man cat (Dusty) who was prescribed Stormogyl recently.

    I looked up, as you do these days, to find the many posts about this monstrously silly and huge tablet! Thankfully Dusty is stick thin and an old boy so we only need to give him a quarter tablet BUT your tips on coating in butter and freexing have been of great value and we followed his 1/4 tablet with some smoked salmon which worked a treat.

    Thank you once again,

    Marjorie Dawson

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