By Dr. Jodi Reed, DVM

It's important to understand the pet medications you give your dog or cat.

While there are thousands of medications for humans to help cure whatever ails them, there are almost as many for our pets! It is important to understand that all medications can have side effects and interactions with other drugs, so it’s critical that before giving your cat or dog any medication you consult your veterinarian…not just Dr. Google! Sometimes, pet parents make assumptions about the safety of medications and even dosages for their fur-babies, based on experiences they have had in the past. This can be a fatal mistake for your cat or dog.

Giving Pets Medication

The most common medications that people give their animals are pain meds, anti-vomiting and diarrhea meds, and treatments for skin problems. There is also a myriad of holistic treatments, herbs, and supplements available for people give to their pets. While many drugs and therapies are safe to give to your pet, it is important to understand that people are very different from dogs and cats–and cats and dogs are different from each other! So what may be safe for one species, may not be for another. Also, dosages may vary drastically between different species, breeds and ages. Also, illnesses can affect the type and amount of drug that can be safely given to a person or pet.

Things to Know

Consulting with your veterinarian is the key to keeping your fur-baby safe! Whether it’s a medication dispensed by your veterinarian, picked up at a local human pharmacy, found as an over-the-counter product or purchased online, it is imperative that you check and double check the medicine (and your knowledge) for the following items:

  1. What is the medication for and why it is being prescribed or recommended?
  2. What dose (the exact amount) and frequency (how often and how long) should you give to your pet?
  3. What are the side effects? What do you do if your pet experiences any unusual symptoms or side effects?
  4. Are there other drugs that interact with the one prescribed? If your pet is on other medications or supplements, is the one being prescribed safe to give in combination?
  5. How exactly do you need to give the medication? Orally, topically? With food or on an empty stomach?
  6. How do you properly store the medication?
  7. What do you do if you miss a dose, give an accidental extra dose or administer too much in any given dose?
  8. What follow-up do you need to assess your pet’s response to the medication, and will your pet need a recheck exam?

Having a plan and understanding these questions will help ensure that your pet is getting appropriate medication, and you will be better prepared to respond to problems that can occur. If there are any additional questions or concerns you have, always consult with your veterinarian – that is why we are here!

Sources of Pet Medications

Another topic that warrants consideration is where you are buying your pet’s medications. Given that medication sales are a billion-dollar business, it follows there are unscrupulous vendors out to get a piece of the financial pie with no concern for the dangers they create for you and your pet. There are substantial risks involved with buying medications based on price alone. While we completely understand that it can be very costly to purchase medications for your pet, the risk of unknowingly getting the wrong medication, counterfeit products, or even incorrect instructions can be more financially and emotionally costly than you ever imagined.

The FDA has a website dedicated to educating consumers about the dangers and precautions to take when using online pharmacies. The site contains a wealth of valuable information, so if you are considering buying medications of any kind from an online store, please read this article.