BY DR. JESSICA GASKINS, PHARMD, FSVHP, DICVP
PET OWNERS KNOW THERE ARE few things more important than the health and wellbeing of their beloved animals. Veterinary pharmacy is the working relationship between a veterinarian, a pharmacist trained in veterinary pharmacology, an owner and their pet, to ensure the best care plan for the animal in question. While this unique niche in pharmacy is now going mainstream, veterinary pharmacy has actually been around for about 50 years.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A PHARMACY
Veterinary pharmacists should have training and knowledge not only about the anatomy, physiology, metabolic capacity, and behavioral aspects of their veterinary patients, but also the following: legal and regulatory issues, compounding practices, antimicrobial agents, and veterinary therapeutics. Essentially, veterinary pharmacy encompasses the knowledge and practices to safely and effectively treat our patients knowing that each species is different and being aware of these differences.
Dogs are not cats, which are not horses, which are not rabbits, which are not birds, and clearly the list goes on and on. While this may seem obvious, many do not realize with such amazing variety of species comes a difference in their internal systems altering the absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion of medications. This in turn means for each species the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of medications will vary. Therefore the medication, dose of the medication, and dosage form will be different for each animal.
Being able to trust your veterinarian and your veterinary pharmacist is critical to ensure these medications are dosed correctly and then dispensed correctly to your pet. The dispensing of veterinary medications MUST be done with the same diligence and attention to detail given to human prescriptions.
COMPOUNDING YOUR PET’S PRESCRIPTION
Many times when it comes to your pet’s prescriptions, you won’t find exactly what you need in a simple pill or liquid. This is why you may need your prescription “compounded.” That is the art and science of preparing personalized medications for patients.
Since doses are often weight-based, the commercially available products are not always appropriate. For example, your tiny hamster can’t take a meloxicam tablet that is designed for a large dog.
In this case, the medication would need to be prepared by a pharmacist with specialized training in the practice of compounding. Or perhaps, your dog needs a commercially available liquid medication but it contains an ingredient that is dangerous to canines such as xylitol. This would be a perfect situation to compound the liquid.
Another reason to compound medications is to create formulations that have flavors palatable to your companion. A few examples are chicken, turkey, beef, and fish for carnivores while cherry, mango, apple, marshmallow may be preferred by herbivores. To decide which flavor is paired with which medication depends on the preference of the pet, but will also depend on which flavor is compatible with the ingredients within the compound.
EASING YOUR MIND
Counseling owners on their pet’s medications is another key aspect of veterinary pharmacy. The veterinarian trusts the pharmacist to fill the prescription correctly, discuss with the owner how to give the medication, and advise owners of side effects cautioned by the veterinarian.
Perhaps the owner needs to wear gloves when applying a transdermal medication to their cat’s inner ear, Pain medications will require the pharmacist to advise owners to observe their pet for excess sedation and if noticed, to contact their veterinarian immediately.
Prescription counseling isn’t limited to dogs and cats. A heat lamp for reptiles needs to be taken into consideration when dosing topical therapies as heat will increase the absorption of most medications. The same is true for medicating fish in a tank who have a water heater!
WE’RE HERE TO HELP!
Veterinary pharmacy is a unique and exciting niche of pharmacy practice. It can be anything from deciding an appropriate dose to changing a dosage form or even helping palatability by changing flavors. Being able to provide this service to our veterinary clients is something we proudly offer at Sweetgrass Pharmacy. Per the slogan of the Society of Veterinary Hospital Pharmacists, “We love veterinary pharmacy!” Expect more from your pet’s pharmacy.
Sweetgrass Pharmacy & Compounding is located at 1952 Long Grove Drive, Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464 Phone: (843) 654-4013.