Pharmacists’ Role in Veterinary Medicine

Written By Deborah Ng

After coming home from a long day at work, there’s nothing that will put a smile on your face faster than having your tail-wagging dog sprint to the door and greet you as if he didn’t just see you eight hours ago.

There’s no denying that the bond shared between owners and pets is strong. We play with them, feed them, walk them, cuddle with them and nurse them back to health when they’re sick. But despite how well we know our pets, we can’t always tell what they’re feeling, especially when they’re sick.

Most medications for animals are stocked and dispensed directly from the veterinarian’s office, but sometimes vets may give prescriptions to owners to fill at their local pharmacy.  The overlap between some veterinary and human medications may provide an opportunity for pharmacists to play a role in pet health and to expand their services to our furry friends. There are no specific prescription requirements for animals that differ from humans, provided the name and identity of the animal is indicated. Just remember that drugs for veterinary use are subject to tax. Some pharmacies may have software that allows them to select the patient type as “animal” to make this process easier.

Pharmacists may also compound drugs for administration to animals. Pursuant to a prescription from a veterinarian, compounding pharmacies may provide alternative options for pets in situations such as inappropriate dosage forms, availability issues, combining two or more products for simultaneous administration, or ensuring compliance with a therapeutic regimen. Ensure that compounding recipes are specifically indicated for veterinary use.

As we do for all patients, it is important to monitor for drug interactions, adverse effects, and compliance for animals who may require long-term medications or multiple medications. For instance, a pet taking an NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) may experience stomach problems as humans would, so it would be important to monitor their progress and encourage the owner to follow up with the veterinarian if they suspect any problems. Under- or over-dosing insulin or thyroid medications, for example, may be life-threatening to pets, requiring blood tests or other tests by the veterinarian before providing a refill prescription.

A friendly refill reminder for chronic medications, along with a reminder to administer regular heartworm medications, could be an added touch that pharmacists can provide to owners to develop a positive rapport.

Although prescription volume for pet prescriptions may be far outweighed by the volumes dispensed to humans, providing services to animals may help to build trust between owners and their pharmacists— allowing our compassion for all living things to be displayed one prescription at a time.




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