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Animal Skin and Allergy Clinic Blog

Medication for Pets: We’ve Come a Long Way Baby

Dog and pills.Medicine is a huge part of modern day culture. It is difficult to imagine a time before you could pop an Advil for a headache or when people died of the most routine of ailments.

People are not the only ones to benefit from these modern advances. Pets and animals of all kinds live longer, healthier lives thanks to these beneficial compounds. Medication for pets is an essential part of veterinary medicine today, and we are thankful for the benefits provided to us through modern pharmacology.

What is Medicine?

Medications are substances that we use to cure or treat diseases or otherwise promote health. The history of medicine use goes back to ancient days when early man found that certain poisons could be mixed and used to cure illness. The word pharmacy is even based on the Greek word pharmakeia, which means “poison mixer”. Medications can be mixed in many forms, including liquids, tablets, capsules, ointments, and sometimes in forms that you wouldn’t ever expect.

In modern times medicine is typically developed and manufactured in controlled laboratories. Many times these compounds are modeled after something that occurs in nature. These medicines derived from natural chemicals are often from poisonous plants, molds, or other plant extracts. With the advances of modern chemistry scientists have been able to enhance the curative aspects of these poisons while minimizing the toxic effects.

Once a medicine is created, it must be tested many times in different ways to be sure it is both safe and effective.  The FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) oversees this process. The FDA guidelines and regulations are very stringent and it can take many years before a medication is approved for use. The scientists developing new drugs must prove that; one, the medication is effective and two, that it is safe.

Medications can be used to treat and prevent many types of problems in pets. Some of the more common uses for medication in veterinary medicine include:

  • Parasite prevention and treatment
  • Anesthetic and sedative drugs
  • Antibiotics to combat infection
  • Pain prevention and treatment
  • Immune regulating drugs for treatment of cancer, allergy & autoimmune disease

There are medications designed for many specific disease processes (think insulin for diabetes or thyroxine for low thyroid hormone). Every year new drugs are being developed for the veterinary market; each has the possibility to better our pets’ lives.

Responsible Use of Medication for Pets

When we use a medication, it is likely being used to prevent or treat an illness that is worse than the possible side effects of the drug being taken. It is important for you as a pet owner to understand your pet’s medications so that you can play an active role in your pet’s health. Medications can have side effects, some of which are acceptable compared to the effects of the disease. Some, however, are worse than the disease and the medication would not be valuable for your pet.

Be sure to understand:

  • Why you are giving the medication
  • How long you need to administer it
  • How to give the medication (With food? With other medications?)
  • How you need to store and handle the drug
  • How often and how much you should administer
  • Any interaction the medication may have with your pet’s other medications
  • What to do if you miss a dose or your pet does not take the medication
  • What side effects may exist

When used correctly medications can make our pets much more comfortable and can help them live better and longer lives.

Never administer a medication to your pet without the supervision of a veterinarian. Animals do not have the same physiology as a person. Some human medications can be extremely dangerous to pets. Likewise, pet prescriptions may be contraindicated in a specific situation, even if they have been previously prescribed for the pet. For instance, administering a canine anti-inflammatory to your dog because he is limping, while taking a steroid for a skin allergy, could result in severe gastrointestinal ulceration. Always give medications as directed by your doctor.

Sometimes the administration of medications without instruction can also make it harder for us to diagnose or treat a problem properly. When in doubt, be sure to give us a call before giving your pet anything that is not being currently prescribed.

When your doctor prescribes a medication for your pet there may be times when you want to know more about it. In our modern information age it may seem easy to turn to the internet or a well-meaning friend for answers. It is best to approach this route with extreme caution. If you read something that causes you to question, then it is important to reach out to an expert before believing or trusting an unknown source found through Google. The best place to go for trustworthy and knowledgeable answers would be your doctor or pharmacist as they go to school for many years to learn about the correct use of medicines for your pets.

If you do decide to look for answers online it is important to pay close attention to the source of any information you are researching, as it may not necessarily be coming from a true expert. For example, there are numerous anecdotal articles on the internet written by individuals who have a hidden agenda; usually it is to get you to buy their products.  They will cloak their words by claiming pharmaceuticals are poisonous and you should use organic or natural remedies. Just remember medicine, whether it is from a pharmacy or a “natural, organic, or holistic” source, is by definition a poison to one degree or another.

One thing to keep in mind is that natural, organic, or holistic medicines are not regulated by the FDA. Thus they are exempt from the process used in drug development to prove that the products are effective and safe. Without the scientific oversight, controlled studies and testing for proof of efficiency used for pharmaceuticals it is important to remember that it is “buyer beware” if you chose to give your pet these alternative remedies.

Medications for pets are a valuable part of our ability to care for our animals better than ever before. We are so thankful to have them so that we can continue to enjoy our pets longer than ever.

posted in:  Seasonal Pet Care