Before you give your pet any medication, always read what the label says. Start by making sure the medicine bottle has the proper pet name on it; it is possible that someone might have made a mistake and given you medication intended for another pet. It’s also possible that you grabbed the wrong bottle from the area where you store your medication. Checking the name is the absolute first thing that should be done every time before giving anything to the pet.
Just because two medications are for heartworms or for fleas doesn’t necessarily mean that they are interchangeable or that the dose is the same. It could be extremely dangerous in some cases to give a medication meant for dogs to a cat. The dose for a 160 pound bullmastiff could cause major problems for a 6 pound cat. Some dog medications have not been tested in cats and some should never be given to cats regardless of the weight of the animal.Even though some cats are as nice and intelligent as some people I have met, they are not little people!
One of the most common calls we get at the pharmacy is a panicked customer wondering if the dog medication that was just given by mistake to the cat will cause any serious problems. Many times people put a whole bunch of medications in a drawer all mixed together. Human, cat, dog, ferret, and all the different medications are in one pile. If space is absolutely limited and you have to put all the family’s medication in one area, what works well is to make a small box for each pet and place all the medications belonging to that pet in the box. Write the name clearly with a magic marker so there is no confusion.
When your pet is being examined, listen to the veterinarian to hear the name of the medication that is being prescribed. If what the bottle says does not match with what the veterinarian talked to you about, don’t hesitate to ask. Don’t assume it’s a similar product with a different name. It is always better to ask and keep asking until you feel comfortable with what you are giving your pet.
After verifying that the pet and drug names are correct the next thing to do is look at the directions of use. If there is anything that is not clear about the instructions, right away call your pharmacist and ask questions. If the directions say “give as directed” and your veterinarian hasn’t informed you how to give the medication, give the office a call for clarification. Never be afraid to ask.
If the directions read give 5cc or 5ml or 15ml or if they give the dose in milligrams or any other measurement or weight that you are not familiar with, don’t guess on how much to give. A pharmacist is usually only a phone call away and could save you much trouble and aggravation trying to figure out what to do if the wrong dose is given.
The next thing to notice on the label is if there are any additional warnings or instructions. Some medication should be given with food, and some should be given on an empty stomach. Some labels warn about the potential for causing drowsiness. Although the pet is not going to be concerned with operating heavy machinery it is still important to know that the medication is causing a certain side effect so you don’t worry unnecessarily when your pet is looking sleepy in the corner of the room.
Another very important thing that the label will say is how to store the medication. In our pharmacy the temperature and humidity are measured 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and it is recorded daily to ensure there are no fluctuation in temperature or humidity. These thermometers that we use are extremely high-tech and cost a considerable amount of money to purchase and maintain. The reason for all these precautions is because it’s very important to always store the medications the way that is suggested by the manufacturer. Stability and effectiveness of the medication is maintained as long as possible only if certain storage guidelines are met. I’m not suggesting that you spend thousands of dollars to purchase high caliber thermometers, but following some basic guidelines will help maintain the medication as fresh as possible for as long as possible.
Some medications belong in the refrigerator and some need to be at a controlled room temperature. It is never a good idea to put the medications on a window sill where there is exposure to direct sunlight. The medicine cabinet in the bathroom is also not the best place for storing medicines; the temperature in the bathroom is always fluctuating between hot and cold and there is quite a bit of humidity in there on a regular basis. Almost any room is better than the bathroom. At my home we store the medication in bins with covers that close and we place them in the top shelf of my bedroom closet.
There are many labels that are important because they instruct us how long to keep the medication after it has been opened or after it has been mixed. As is the case with certain antibiotics, once they are mixed they can no longer maintain their stability until the original expiration date. After mixing, some antibiotics only last 10 days before they have to be discarded.
Some medication labels have a description of the medication that is supposed to be inside the vial. These should match what is inside the bottle. If you’re getting a refill of a medication that you’re been getting all along and you notice a discrepancy in appearance from the last time you gave it to this time, call your pharmacist to make sure you are in fact giving the correct medication.
Developing a good relationship with the veterinarian and with the pharmacist is an essential component for maintaining the health of your pet. The better the relationship you have, the easier it will be for you to ask questions if the need arises. As always, a PetMeds pharmacist is available to answer any medication related question or concern.
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