I must admit I’ve never had to give tablets to a cat. As far as I’m concerned I’ll be delighted if this happy situation continues. Giving them to a dog is a doddle. Some of them now look (and apparently taste) like some sort of dog treat. Even those that aren’t so camouflaged soon disappear in a piece of bread, butter and touch of marmite; squeezed together and proffered gingerly lest you loose a finger to the enthusiastic patient.
But have you ever considered giving tablets to a cow? With a calf it’s not too difficult. Stand behind it; grasp the bottom jaw with your thumb inside the calf’s mouth. It is really really important that your thumb is in the gap behind the incisors and in front of the molars. The thumb also holds the tongue in place. With two fingers of your other hand slide the tablet over your thumb and carefully avoiding getting your fingers chewed by the molars, push the tablet back and the swallowing reflex takes over.
Try doing that with an adult animal, or one over about a month old!
So with larger animals, if possible, whatever is in the tablet is given in a liquid form, so you just pour it. Again there are ways of doing this. Ideally you use the same grip, holding the lower jaw with your thumb across the tongue, and then slide the nozzle of whatever you’re using in to the mouth, opposite your thumb. Hold the animal’s head up so the liquid pours out and the animal swallows it.
It’s a very old technique. The picture is of a cow horn. The pointed end (which obviously is not longer pointed) goes into the cow’s mouth and you use the horn as a funnel, pouring out of a jug into the other end.
Technology has moved on and to be honest a wine bottle is excellent for this sort of task. But it has to be the right bottle. You want a long narrow neck, no fancy bulbous bits. I’ve known people go into an off-licence and purchase a wine purely because it was inexpensive and the bottle was perfect. The wine was doubtless consumed first before the bottle was signed across to the businesses medical section. Due to the exigencies of fate our current wine bottle is a Tia Maria bottle which once you get used to it is actually quite good.
The problem is that the cow might object. Now as a small child I had to drink medicine off a spoon. I might not like it, I might object, but I had to do it. I’ve never yet convinced a cow to drink medicine off a spoon. Given the dose, the spoon would probably look a bit daunting. There again I have had calves take medicine from a spoon. A few years back we had some which were recovering from illness and the vet suggested we give them cod-liver oil as a pick-me-up. I did try them with a spoon, being the cheerful optimist I am, and much to my surprise they enjoyed it so much they would drink if off the spoon. Admittedly they also sucked the spoon enthusiastically looking for more.
As an aside the vet commented that he knew some farmers who sold cattle as ‘store’, (by which I mean they were sold for other people to fatten) often mixed cod-liver oil in the rations for the last few weeks. Amongst other things it gets into their hair and makes it really shine. Not only does it do them good, it makes them look good as well. So forget your fancy shampoos and expensive hair lotions, a spoon full of cod-liver oil will get your hair positively glowing.
Anyway having inadvertently solved all your tonsorial problems, back to the cattle.
That is, the large cattle who object to being given their medicine. It’s all very well and good to try and hold the cow’s head, but the head is a pretty big thing. It’s also supported by a neck with an awful lot of muscle. So if a cow inadvertently swings its head across and catches you in the chest, it can knock you flying. That’s without the cow moving forwards or backwards and knocking you down.
So farmers tend to have a cattle crush. The amount of TB testing we have to do, they’re almost compulsory nowadays. The cow walks into it and there are some nice round steel bars that restrict movement. They don’t ‘trap’ the animal, and the term ‘crush’ is entirely a misnomer as the animal isn’t held firmly. It’s designed so the animal is ‘constrained’ but is unable to hurt itself, and equally as important, is unable to hurt you.
So as you give the animal the medicine, the head can now still move about, but far less than it could previously, and the animal cannot trample you.
When you look at a good cattle crush, it’s of solid construction with a lot of metal. This is because you don’t want it to move when the animal steps into it. When over half a ton of bovine steps onto something, or pushes something, it’s surprising how often that something gets out of the way. So a good crush is solid enough for both you and the cow to get a sense of security.
There’s a lot to be said for heavy metal.
And if you don’t believe me, ask the dog. She has her own opinions as to whether certain animals need to be restrained!
As a reviewer said, “Like the other two books in this series, Jim Webster gives us a perspective of farm life we may not have appreciated. Some of the facts given will come as a shock to non-farming readers, but they do need to be read. Having said that, there are plenty of humorous anecdotes to make the book an enjoyable read.”