Medication Safety for Pets

The FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine offers these suggestions for avoiding medication errors and accidental medication exposures for your animals

Most medication errors are preventable. Communication is one of the keys to preventing medication errors. It’s not much different from what you would do for yourself or for your child when your doctor prescribes a drug product. If you don’t understand why your veterinarian is ordering or prescribing a drug for your animal, ask. Other questions you can ask your veterinarian are:

  • What is the name of the drug? What is it supposed to do?
  • Could it interact with other drugs my animal is currently taking?
  • What are the possible side effects and what should I do to care for my animal?
  • How do I give it? Do liquids have to be shaken before use?
  • How many times a day should I give it?
  • How much do I give each time?
  • Should I give it before, during, or after meals?
  • What if I accidentally give too much?
  • What should I do if I forget to give a dose to my animal?
  • What should I do if my animal vomits or spits it out?
  • How should I store it and how do I dispose of any unused medication?
  • Should I finish giving all the medication, even if my animal seems better?

Asking questions is important, but sometimes it’s not enough. Share information about your pet with your veterinarian, especially if you are getting a new prescription or visiting that veterinarian for the first time. Here are some suggestions that might help.

  • Keep a list of drugs that your animal is taking – including over-the-counter drugs, supplements, and prescription drugs. Bring it with you and show it to your veterinarian.
  • Discuss any drugs that your animal is allergic to or that have caused problems in the past.
  • Discuss any serious or chronic health conditions that your animal may have.

Here are some steps that could help you avoid medication errors and accidental medication exposures at home:

  • Read labels and follow directions.
  • Do not cut, crush, or break capsules or tablets unless your veterinarian tells you to do so. If your veterinarian tells you to cut the tablet in half, use a pill cutter to get the most accurate dose possible.
  • Keep your animal’s drugs in their original labeled containers.
  • Do not share one animal’s drug with another animal unless your veterinarian says it’s OK to do so.
  • Store animal drugs away from human drugs to prevent mix-ups and accidental human exposure to animal drugs and animals to human medications.
  • Store animal drugs out of reach of household pets, especially flavored chewable tablets that may lead to the pet seeking and consuming the medication in potentially serious accidental overdoses.
  • Store animal drugs up out of reach of children.
  • Store any human medications you may have at home out of reach of your pets to prevent accidental exposures and overdoses.