Robert Woodward BVetMed MRCVS explains the differences between human and animal medication for your pet.
Every day veterinarians are prescribing medications for animals under our care. Although the initial answer to the question appears easy and we would always endeavour to prescribe a veterinary medicinal product that is licenced for use for a species and condition, there are cases where a licenced veterinary product many not exist.
In these cases, the Veterinary Medicines Regulations 2013 allows us to prescribe other medication especially if the medication will help our beloved pets to avoid unacceptable suffering. In these cases, a product that is licenced in another member country/state, or even a human medication may be best in that they provide the required treatment activity, dosage and safety of use (this is classified as “off-label” use).
Providing Off-Labelled Medication
The decision to provide an off-labelled medication is not made lightly and a strict cascade is always followed by vets before a human medication is prescribed. This will always involve an active discussion with our clients to advise why we have prescribed the medication, what its anticipated effect will be and what side effects could occur.
If both parties agree, then we will often ask our clients to sign a form to confirm that they have understood the medication’s off-label use so that we can demonstrate our good practice to our governing body.
We do often get people calling about giving human medications to their pets and I must say we really do appreciate these calls day or night. We would much rather have the opportunity to provide the value of our clinical education on the appropriate use of human medication for your animal rather than human medication being used and it then having a detrimental rather than a positive effect on your pet.
We certainly have several cases every year where animals have been given a human medication that has resulted in hospitalisation and treatment because the said treatment may cause, or have the potential to cause, harm. A phone call is always preferred than treating a potential toxicity case.
Remember we are always here to help day or night, 365 days of the year. We care about you and your pet and we will do all that we can to help.