Interested individuals can pursue certification or continuing education credits, many of which are available through the American College of Veterinary Pharmacists.
When it comes to animal care, most people rely strictly on the advice of their veterinarians, not realizing that pharmacists may also be in a unique position to offer guidance.
Some pharmacists have studied veterinary pharmacy beyond compounding and can provide basic advice on the care of animal patients. Pharmacists can advocate and educate on behalf of animal patients and their owners, specifically in the areas of weight management, vaccinations, poison treatment, and insurance coverage.
Obesity in America is not relegated to humans. Approximately 37% of dogs are classified as overweight, while 19% can be classified as obese. For felines, approximately 26% are overweight, with 34% classified as obese.1 As in humans, weight control problems can contribute to a plethora of complications in domestic dogs and cats, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and hypertension.
Body mass index is used to determine obesity in humans. Rather, animals are visually evaluated for body condition score (BCS). There are 2 BCS scores; 1 uses a scale of 1 to 5 and the other a scale of 1 to 9 (see image below).two
In the event an animal is noted to be obese or overweight, the pharmacist should recommend that the owner see a certified veterinary nutritionist. The animal may need a prescribed diet, which would be within the scope of a veterinarian-client-patient relationship.
Although there are no clear statistics on the vaccination rate among domestic dogs and cats in the United States, findings from the United Kingdom show that 25% of puppies were not properly vaccinated and 23% of dogs were not properly boosted. Additionally, 35% of kitties were not properly vaccinated and 41% of cats were not properly boosted. These numbers are likely to be higher in the United States, due to anti-vaccination advocates.3
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) recommends core vaccinations for dogs, including canine hepatitis, canine parvovirus, distemper, and rabies. For cats, the ASPCA recommends feline calicivirus, feline herpes type 1, panleukopenia, and rabies. Vaccination requirements vary by state law.4
There is no provision that allows pharmacists to administer vaccines to animal patients. However, pharmacists can advise patients on the importance of preventing the spread of some viruses by keeping the seating area clean. Additionally, pharmacists can encourage pet owners to adhere to vaccination and distribution charts, such as the one below.5
Pharmacists should also advise pet owners on what to do in the event of accidental poisoning. Since cats are more picky eaters, they are less susceptible to poisoning than dogs, which are better classified as opportunistic binge eaters. Signs of poisoning include diarrhea, excessive drooling and panting, and tremors. Encourage pet owners to have 3% hydrogen peroxide and oral syringes in their homes. For every 5 pounds of body weight, administer 1 teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide. Vomiting should occur within 20 minutes. If not, repeat only once. Do not use syrup of ipecac. However, owners should not administer hydrogen peroxide if6:
- No one saw what the animal ate or how much it ate.
- The animal has already vomited.
- The animal has ingested a household cleaning product, petroleum derivatives or products containing acids or alkalis.
- The animal has swallowed a sharp object.
- The animal is having seizures or is unconscious.
- The poison was ingested more than 2 to 6 hours earlier.
It should be noted that the most common cause of accidental poisoning is the ingestion of over-the-counter medications, namely acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and naproxen.7 In addition, pharmacists must provide pet owners with the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center number: (888) 426-4435.
Pharmacists should also encourage pet owners to consider obtaining pet insurance. There are several companies that offer coverage plans, which can help some pets avoid euthanasia in the event of accidents or illness. Like most insurance plans, there is a deductible that must be met. However, beneficiaries are reimbursed by paying for services in full and then mailing in a receipt of a claim. The monthly cost for most plans ranges from $15 to $150 per month. Pharmacists knowledgeable about various insurance plans will be able to recommend coverages that can help with pet care expenses. It helps to be aware of the nuances between plans. For example, ManyPets is unique in that it offers coverage for pre-existing conditions, as long as the animal has not shown any symptoms in the previous 18 months.8 Additionally, Pumpkin is a relatively expensive plan with high deductibles and premiums, but it also offers coverage of up to $15,000 per year for a cat and $20,000 per year for a dog.9
Finally, pharmacists must understand that it is an illegal act to advise on the use of human OTC drugs in an animal. For example, if a person asks a pharmacist if it is safe to give GasX to a dog, the pharmacist should consult a veterinarian.
Most pharmacists are not trained in the care of animal patients. However, there are several educational opportunities regarding this topic. Interested pharmacists can pursue certifications or continuing education credits, many of which are available through the American College of Veterinary Pharmacists. The University of Florida also offers a completely online 15-week veterinary pharmacy certificate program.
With the right education and training, pharmacists can start beneficial dialogues with patients about their pets to further enrich patient-pharmacist relationships.
- 2018 Pet Obesity Survey Results. Pet Obesity Prevention Association. March 12, 2019. Accessed March 21, 2022. https://petobesityprevention.org/2018
- Body condition score. World Association of Small Animal Veterinarians. Accessed March 21, 2022. https://wsava.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Body-Condition-Score-Dog.pdf
- PAW Report 2018. People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals. Retrieved March 21, 2022.https://www.pdsa.org.uk/media/4371/paw-2018-full-web-ready.pdf.
- Vaccines for your pet. American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Accessed March 21, 2022. https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/general-pet-care/vaccinations-your-pet
- Table of vaccinations for dogs. Etsy. Accessed March 21, 2022. https://www.etsy.com/ca/listing/599012772/printable-dog-vaccination-chart-pet
- Burke A. How to make a dog vomit. American Kennel Club. May 23, 2019. Retrieved March 22, 2022.https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/how-to-make-a-dog-throw-up/
- Top 10 Pet Toxins of 2020. American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Retrieved March 22, 2022.https://www.aspcapro.org/resource/top-10-pet-toxins-2020
- What does pet insurance not cover? A lot of pets. March 2, 2021. Accessed March 22, 2022. https://manypets.com/us/blog/what-does-pet-health-insurance-not-cover/
- Pet Insurance Review Tretina K. Pumpkin. Money. November 18, 2021. Accessed March 22, 2022. https://money.com/pumpkin-pet-insurance-review/