What You Need to Know About Prescription Medications for your Pets

A Note from Dr. Ed:

Prescription medications are used by veterinarians regularly to treat a variety of conditions in their clients’ pets.  These medications are used to treat illnesses related to infections, inflammation, pain, allergies, heart disease, kidney failure, and more.   Prescription drugs are an extremely effective way to treat animals as each one is specifically designed to treat a certain illness.  By definition, prescription medications require a visit to your veterinarian.  During this visit, your veterinarian will go over all side effects, dosage information, and how to administer the medication.  Unfortunately, most prescription medication failures are due to the inability of the pet caretaker to appropriately give or apply these medications.  It is therefore imperative that you communicate to your veterinary professional your capability or willingness to follow his or her treatment protocols and your understanding of the product’s correct usage.

We all have different perspectives on what is adequate or appropriate health care for our beloved pets.  We also have differing sets of activities and interests that inevitably impact our ability to give prescription medications.  I always try to spend the time with my clients to discuss the optimum treatment protocol for their pets and put forth a concerted effort to adjust that protocol to fit the pet caretaker’s lifestyle and capabilities.  Frequently, when a client receives a prescription medication for their pet, they will express reservations about their ability to give or apply the medication.  A great example is the classic response from a client after you inform them that they will have to give their sweet, lovable kitty a pill.  Anyone that has attempted to give a cat prescription medication can certainly appreciate how quickly that task can deteriorate into a frustrating, and often overwhelming, fiasco!

The more reasonable your veterinarian can make the treatment protocol, the more likely you are to comply with it.  We have multiple forms in which we dispense prescription medications.  They can be oral liquids, transdermal ointments (medications absorbed through the skin), pills, topical liquids, sprays, or inhalants.  Prescription medications can also be delivered via injection.  Talk to your veterinarian about your comfort level with the mode of administration and frequency.  In doing so, you will definitely eliminate the biggest problem with prescription medications- that medication is rarely utilized as directed.

Although prescription medications are extremely effective in the treatment of most illnesses in pets, they can be hazardous if used incorrectly.  For the most part, serious side effects are rare, however, they can occur.  You should always ask your veterinarian about possible side effects and possible reactions to misuse.  Vomiting and diarrhea are two of the most common side effects of prescription drugs and are frequently noted.  More serious side effects associated with prescription use include allergic reactions, ulcers, and weight loss, among others.  You should always ask your veterinarian about possible side effects prior to starting a treatment regimen for your pet.  You should also ask about the likelihood that the prescribed medication will have a negative effect on other organs of the body.  Depending on which system is used to metabolize the drug, other organs may be at risk after prolonged use or misuse. Frequent blood tests are recommended to ensure that these other systems have not been compromised. 

Our information is not intended to replace the advice of your veterinarian.  Do not use this information for diagnostic purposes. Always take your pet to your veterinarian to obtain a diagnosis and course of treatment.