There's No Accounting for Taste in Veterinary Medicine
There’s no accounting for some people’s taste. In fact, as a child, my pediatrician had to talk my mother down off a ledge after I was found snacking on Purina Cat Chow.
To this day, I have strange tastes. Anthony Bourdain-style, I’ll eat anything edible as long as it’s well prepared and some culture somewhere thinks it tastes good. But none of that explains why I taste all my patients’ medications, dewormers, vitamins, foods, treats and oral rinses.
OK, so I’ll concede it sounds strange that a supposedly learned professional would engage in this rather disgusting practice. But it’s one of my peculiar skills, I guess, so I’m happy to put it to good use. And I’m not alone. Other vets I know do this, too.
How else would we decide whether to offer a dewormer of one variety over another? Which brand of augmentin to stock? Which version of glucosamine and chondroitin leaves no bitter aftertaste and disappears best into dog food? Which oral rinse doesn’t taste like rancid vinaigrette?
There are countless opportunities for tasting in vet medicine. For example, the quickest (and dirtiest) test for diabetes you can imagine? Yep. The sweetness of urine is usually a dead giveaway. (This is an excellent tip in case you’re feeling really paranoid about your pet and you don’t want to take an extra trip to the vet for one of the few things you can "easily" diagnose in the comfort of your own home. Good luck with that.)
There are plenty of tastes surely more vile than the above, but I draw the line at items that are made to be tasted (everyone has to set their own limits). Yet it’s precisely because so many of these pet-geared products taste like yesterday’s eggs that I actually have to engage in this questionable practice. (Not that I can presume to taste things like our pets do, but I’ve got to give it my best shot, don’t I?)
It never fails to amaze me how horrible the leading brand of X tastes, while a cheaper, newer version will blow me away with its meaty overtones and almost completely occult bitterness. It’s clear that some drug manufacturers care about flavor and palatability and some just don’t give a d---- how impossible medicating 20 claws and 30-plus teeth can be.
Why do I use so much Rimadyl and Metacam relative to the other NSAIDs? Because they DO taste good. The Zithromax brand of azithromycin? Because it’s edible. Why do I insist on ordering a weak Metronidazole elixir from a compounding pharmacy? Because the pills taste like bitter chalk (even when swallowed whole) and the strong elixir makes cats foam at the mouth. (One taste and you’d be doing the same.) Why don’t I stock clindamycin in its liquid form? I never met a liquid version of this nauseating stuff I could swallow.
How can we expect our pets to get better if their meds taste like cat poo? Actually, if they did I’m sure some of our pets would take to them more readily than some of the current versions. But that’s another line I’m drawing right now: No fecal-flavored anything. Mr. Bourdain never stooped so low and I’m certainly not going there either.
Dr. Patty Khuly