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How Long Does It Take a Cat to Swallow a Pill?
Veterinary & Aquatic Services Department, Drs. Foster & Smith
July 2000
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July 2000 News

Dr. Bodewes showing how to give a cat a pill (with an extra large pill!)Researchers at the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Florida* asked that question and designed a study to come up with the answer. They evaluated the swallowing reflex of twelve normal cats using fluoroscopy, having the cats swallow food mixed with a small amount of barium. After withholding food for 12 hours, the researchers had the cats swallow a gelatin capsule filled with barium, and again used fluoroscopy to evaluate the passage time. Each cat was evaluated on 3 separate occasions. The cats were evaluated while in cat carriers, and were not restrained.

Cats who swallowed the capsule into their stomach within 30 seconds were considered normal. If it took longer than 30 seconds for the capsule to reach the stomach, the transit time was considered prolonged. If the capsule was still in the esophagus after 4 minutes, the capsule was considered entrapped.

The researchers found that in 7 (19%) examinations the transit time was prolonged, and in 19 (53%) examinations the capsule actually became entrapped. The capsule became entrapped in at least one evaluation in 9 of 12 cats.

The researchers found that if a cat with an entrapped capsule was then fed a small amount of food, the capsule was able to move on into the stomach. As a result of these findings the researchers suggest that a small volume of food be given following the oral administration of medications to cats to ensure the medication does not become entrapped.

*Graham, JP; Lipman, AH; Newell, SM; Roberts, GD. Esophageal transit of capsules in clinically normal cats. American Journal of Veterinary Research 2000;61:655-657.

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