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Be a member of your pet’s healthcare team

Sandra Justice, P.D., FACA

As a pet owner, you are a valuable and necessary member of the health care team taking care of a sick pet. Giving an accurate description of the signs and symptoms your pet is exhibiting to your veterinarian is vital to a correct diagnosis and speedy recovery. When you describe your pet’s condition, be sure to include observations of any changes in appearance or behavior, whether or not your pet is eating or drinking water, when the problem was first observed, and whether or not the problem is worsening. Remember, as your pet’s caretaker, you know better than anyone else when something is wrong.

When treatment is ordered by the veterinarian, the owner once again is a critical participant in the successful treatment of the animal. A well-informed pet owner is an asset to the veterinarian and ultimately to the pet. Therefore, when medication is prescribed for your pet, take the time to make sure you understand the following points before leaving the veterinary clinic or pharmacy:

  • What is the name of the drug?
  • What is its purpose?
  • How do I give the drug? (e.g., by mouth, on the skin, in the ear?)
  • When and how often do I give the drug?
  • What do I do if I miss a dose?
  • What effects should I expect from this drug?
  • What side effects might I expect?
  • How long do I continue to give the drug?
  • Are there any special storage or handling requirements for the drug?
  • Are there any problems I might expect in giving this medication?
What You Should Know About Your Pet’s Medication

In order for your pet’s medication to be of greatest benefit, it is helpful to have some general information regarding the administration and handling of medications. Here are some guidelines for safe and effective use of veterinary medications.

  • Store your pet’s medication in a cool, dry, dark place. Do not store the medication on a windowsill, in a glove compartment, or in a bathroom where steam may damage the contents.
  • Keep all the medications out of reach of children and pets, even if they are in a child-resistant container.
  • Check for the expiration date listed on the medication package. Do not give your pet any medications that have passed their expiration date.
  • Do not discontinue a medication that is being used to treat a chronic disease, such as heart disease or diabetes, without consulting your veterinarian.
  • Make every attempt to administer your pet’s medication at approximately the same time each day. A regular schedule keeps the drug at a more consistent level in your pet’s bloodstream. This can be important to the success of the treatment.
Drug Therapy Problems

If your pet has difficulty in swallowing medication, hates the taste of its medicine, or needs a special medication, your veterinarian or veterinary pharmacist may be able to compound a medication for your pet. Medications can be compounded into chewables, capsules, eye and ear preparations, injectables, topically- applied gels, and other dosage forms.

A Long and Healthy Life

Over 59 percent of American households have family members that are pets. Although dogs and cats have shorter life spans than humans, they now live longer than ever before. Increased longevity brings new health concerns such as heart disease, arthritis and cancer. Regular check-ups are critical for an older animal. Let your veterinarian examine your pet regularly and treat or prevent health problems.