We human beings are familiar with the need to have a drink of water after taking pills, to help ensure the medication makes its way to our stomach quickly. While this is common practice for us, it has not been considered necessary for cats to also have a drink of water after taking a pill—until recently.
Doxycycline is an antibiotic commonly used in cats to treat certain infections. Writing in a veterinary journal in 2000, Dr. David Twedt and his colleagues at Colorado State University (CSU) reported on three cases of doxycycline tablet-induced esophagitis and stricture formation in cats. They suspected the doxycycline tablets were retained in the esophagus of the cats for a long enough period to allow severe inflammation to occur, resulting in scar formation. This phenomenon has also been well-documented in people, most commonly with doxycycline and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
Scarring in the esophagus can cause a stricture, making it hard for the cat to swallow food. Affected cats are taken to the veterinarian within one to two weeks for difficulty with swallowing and/or regurgitation. The diagnosis of an esophageal stricture is made with contrast X-rays using barium or with an examination of the esophagus by endoscope. In severely affected cats, attempts must be made to open the stricture with balloon dilatation, also using an endoscope. In rare cases, risky surgical repair of the esophagus is needed.
In 2000, the Winn Feline Foundation granted funding to Dr. Twedt and his colleagues to study how tablets and capsules are swallowed in cats and to determine if water should be
administered after these medications. The investigators used an imaging technique called fluoroscopy, which uses X-rays to generate live images. With the fluoroscope, it became possible to watch and calculate how long a tablet or capsule was retained in a cat’s esophagus before it reached the stomach. The cats in the study were 30 normal, healthy animals owned by the faculty, staff and students of CSU’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital. Harmless barium tablets and capsules were used, since they would be easy to see using fluoroscopy. .... [Read complete article]
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