It suddenly struck me today that this is especially true when it comes to medicating animals.
When I started in Veterinary Practice (and it is only 20 years ago), Cats and Dogs were often treated with large, rough coated and bitter tasting tablets.
I clearly remember clients regularly saying “Please can you give him the first tablet to get things underway” and I equally clearly remember the sinking feeling in my stomach as I prepared for battle. I recall spending about 3 of my first 6 months at Donaldson’s picking up the saliva laden tablet from the floor of my Consulting Room when the animal had defiantly ejected it from its mouth. The other 3 months seemed to be spent in the cupboard where the dressing materials were kept rummaging for something absorbent to stem the flow of blood from my lacerated hands. I recall thinking that I had to learn fast!
Eventually, I perfected a technique that I named “The Flic-n-Bic” that involved a deftly flicked tablet landing in precisely the optimum area of the back of the tongue. Following a successful tablet flick, the second stage of the process involved whipping out a “Bic” biro and using the rounded end to carefully manoeuvre the tablet from its landing position over the back of the tongue and safely to its destination.
Once perfected, this technique has literally saved my skin on numerous occasions.
Over the last 20 years, tablets started to be made smaller so that they were easier to swallow. Manufacturers started coating them to make them smoother. Long acting antibiotics have been invented that can be given by injection and last for 2 weeks so that tablets can be avoided. Wormers can be applied in spot-on preparations that are absorbed through the skin.
It was only the other day when I was administering flea treatment to my own 3 Labradors by palatable tablet that it struck me.. These tablets prevent fleas and ticks for a full 3 months and are so palatable that the dogs were squabbling with each other to get to their tablet first. It was at that moment that I suddenly realised that “The Flic-n-Bic” had become a dying art.
Technology and equipment have transformed the care that Vets can now offer but some progress has been much less obvious but just as profound.