Information Possibly Outdated
The information presented on this page was originally released on July 12, 1999. It may not be outdated, but please search our site for more current information. If you plan to quote or reference this information in a publication, please check with the Extension specialist or author before proceeding.
Handle Human, Animal Medicines Responsibly
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Many of the same critical issues that apply to prescription medicine for people also apply for their pets.
Dr. Dinah Jordan, chief of pharmacy services at Mississippi State University's College of Veterinary Medicine, said prescriptions are only for the individual named on the label, for the purpose it was prescribed and often for a specific length of time.
"Taking the full dose of medicines like antibiotics for the prescribed time is as important for animals as it is for humans," Jordan said. "If you can't give the medicine to a difficult animal or if it is impossible to comply with the treatment times, tell your veterinarian so an alternative recommendation can be made."
Look for evidence that the medication is either working or not and for possible adverse reactions. Some warning signs include a decreased appetite, depression, loose bowels or vomiting.
Handle the medicines prescribed for animals with the same precautions as human drugs.
"Consider the safety of children and pets in the house. Some animal medicine may be packaged in containers that are not child or pet resistant," Jordan said.
While humans and animals may use some of the same drugs, use of a human drug in an animal should not be considered without veterinary guidance. Humans should never take an animal's medication.
"Some human medications can have fatal effects when given to an animal and vice versa. Humans and animals metabolize some medications differently," Jordan said. "Treating animals with medications without a veterinarian's advice can be ineffective or detrimental."
The pharmacist discouraged people from keeping prescription medications when they are no longer needed. Over time, the drug's effectiveness may deteriorate and the toxicity may increase. Unused medications, such as narcotic pain killers, should not be treated casually.
"Federal law makes it illegal to transfer a controlled substance from one patient (human or animal) to another," Jordan said. "When medicines become old or if the patient dies, any remaining prescribed medication should be destroyed."
Proper use of medicines can extend an animal's life and improve the quality of life, but close communication between the owner and veterinarian can make the difference.
"Be realistic about your ability to give the medications and keep them straight. If the owner personally is taking a lot of medication, it can become easier to become confused," Jordan said. "Make sure you read and understand the doctor's instructions."
Contact: Dr. Dinah Jordan, (662) 325-3432