Often times we compare dogs to humans. Whether it is nutrition, physical fitness or behavior, there are some things that have been found OK to treat in a similar way. This came to mind when our veterinarian prescribed Nakita her heartworm prevention during her first post adoption visit.
Knowing that I had other dogs in the home, he stressed the importance of not sharing prescriptions amongst the others. Physicians and Pharmacists warn against the same thing for humans. Prescription medications are specific to each patient for a reason.
Why Do Pets Needs to be Prescribed Medicine?
When your veterinarian prescribes a medication for your dog (or cat), it means that the medication is recommended or necessary to treat your pet’s health problem.
Many prescription drugs are only effective for specific problems, and may actually be harmful to your pet if used without that critical veterinary examination and diagnosis. Having these drugs available as prescription-only medications ensures that they are used appropriately.
Let’s take heartworm preventives as an example.
Heartworm preventives are labeled as “prescription-only” because it’s critical that your veterinarian makes sure the medication is the right one based on your pet’s health status. The preventives target the infective larvae as they are migrating through the tissue prior to reaching the bloodstream and developing to adult heartworms.
If your dog (or cat) has heartworms, giving a preventive medication will not effectively treat the disease because the preventives don’t readily kill adult heartworms. In some cases, administering preventives to heartworm positive dogs can cause a rapid kill of circulating larvae, leading to a life-threatening anaphylactic reaction.
“Over the counter” (OTC) drugs, don’t require prescriptions. Drugs can be bought OTC when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determines that the directions for the drug’s use aren’t overly complicated and are adequate for the public to follow.
In some cases, such as the common headache medications for people, the OTC version is just a weaker strength than the prescription form. However, in many cases, a drug is only available with a prescription for the reasons mentioned above.
Why Pet Parents Are Tempted to Share Rx Meds Between Pets
Nakita was prescribed Iverhart Max, which kills developing and adult heartworms. This was important for her because she tested heartworm positive. Along with the prevention, she was prescribed a daily medicine that specifically targets the parasite within the adult heartworms.
Like many multi-pet homes, things often times need to be purchased at different times. While Nakita was on her heartworm prevention, Cairo, who is in the same weight class for dosage, ran out of his prevention. Next comes the decisions.
A: Schedule a vet visit, get a heartworm test, and ultimately pay more than necessary to get Cairo’s prevention right then
B: Wait the 5-7 days for the prevention refill to be mailed to my home from the online pharmacy
C: Give Cairo one of Nakita’s heartworm chews
The correct answer: none of the above. Heartworm prevention is so important that you should try your hardest not to run out. If you do, don’t share the prescription and here is why…
Prescription Medicines Are Specific to Each Pet
Pet prescriptions are specific to each animal based on weight, current health and health history. Dogs should undergo blood testing and a thorough physical examination before starting certain medications. Sometimes dogs even need to be monitored by a veterinarian while they are taking medication such as Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs).
It is particularly important not to administer prescriptions like Iverhart concurrently with other drugs that fight the heartworm infection. In addition, there may be other interactions between various medications and drugs such as Iverhart. For an extensive list of drugs that are able to alter the effectiveness of another drug, please consult a veterinarian.
Imagine if I, or any other pet parent were to give a prescribed drug to another pet. That pet could have serious side effects or life threatening reactions because of the interaction with another medication they are already taking. Be responsible, get prescription drugs for each of your pets.
Faith Ellerbe, Writer & Founder of The Live.Wag.BARK! Foundation
I am Faith Ellerbe, The Frugal Fur Mom and author of Live.Wag.BARK!. I consider myself frugal because I am always looking for ways to save money. I started this habit after college when I became completely independent and realized how expensive life can be for a new graduate.
I graduated with a Bachelors of Science in Biology. I have skills and knowledge in drug metabolism and biological and chemical analysis. I’m able to apply these skills in caring for my pack because I can analyze ingredients in food/treats, grooming supplies, cleaning supplies, etc, and decide whether or not a product meets the health standards I have chosen for my pack.
I have always been an animal lover! I am enjoying life as a dog mom with my fur babies Harmony, Nakita, Reagan and Cairo! We are making our paw print through the Live.Wag.BARK! Foundation by partnering with non and for profit animal organizations to educate people in low-income communities about responsible pet ownership.