It is common practice to ensure that your pet is examined by a veterinary surgeon on a regular basis. These check-ups are vital to ensure that your pet is as happy and healthy as possible. However, should there be any health issues then a regular check will identify and manage any health issues in the most effective and appropriate way possible. For example, as part of that health management, there is a possibility that your pet may be prescribed medication. 

Many of us pet owners may have some unused pet medication in your home; it is possible that you have held on to these medications because you are not sure what to do with them. Or maybe you suspect these medications could be used in the future. However, can you really reuse leftover pet medication?

The medication prescribed could range from help in the prevention of parasites; to make an animal better; or to control a long-term disease. It is important that any prescribed medications are administered correctly for the medication to have the effect that it is supposed to do. 

Your veterinary surgeon or RAMA (Registered Animal Medicines Advisor) will discuss why the medication has been prescribed and the dosing directions. As well as any side effects that your pet may experience when taking the medication. 

Should I have left over medication?

In theory you should never have any medication left over after treating your pet for a medical condition. In most cases, the prescribing veterinary surgeon will prescribe the right amount of medication for the treatment. You should give the entire course of medication to your pet. You should not stop giving the medication to your pet when they seem better; unless this has been instructed by your vet. 

In some cases, your vet may provide you with more medication than needed because your pet’s condition improved more quickly than expected; or a certain course of treatment was not working, so your vet recommended a new approach before all the medication was finished from the original treatment. 

Is there a risk of keeping medication?

Keeping old or unused pet medications around the house can present risks to both humans and pets. Using expired veterinary medications can be unsafe; this is because expired medications may not be as effective at treating the animal’s conditions as their non-expired counterparts. 

Taking expired medication for life-threatening conditions such as a heart condition or diabetes can pose a serious risk to your pet’s health. In addition to being less potent, some medications decay and could pose a serious health danger if used past their expiration dates. And they could cause other problems such as diarrhoea or vomiting. In a few cases (for example, some antibiotics and stomach ulcer medicines), the drug may even become toxic once past its use by date.

Pet medications can pose just as much of a threat as human prescriptions to children who find them in the home. That is one more reason why properly disposing of any unused medication is the safest option.

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Can I reuse pet medication on my other animals?

If your pet is unwell and presenting symptoms that appear like a past illness that was treated with a medication you still have, it can be tempting to treat the condition with the old medication; even if it is in date.

However, your pet could potentially have a completely different medical problem with which you still (even with the existing medication) could not help. This means that your pet may not respond to the treatment.

Furthermore, it could even cause your pet to have further problems after giving them improper medication. Your pet should be examined by a veterinary surgeon before being given any medication. Even if you believe you know what the issue is. 

Once your veterinary surgeon has seen your pet and agrees on a treatment programme, you can certainly mention that you have medication at home, which is still in date. Your veterinary surgeon may wish for you not to continue with your original medication. For example they will not know the efficacy of the medication. (If it has been stored in appropriate conditions for the medication to work efficiently and not to cause any adverse effects).

What is an adverse reaction?

An adverse reaction is when there is a harmful response. This occurs after exposure to a veterinary medicine administered to a cat or dog, at the normal dose rate. Not all medication will show side effects in the pet. Remember they act in many different ways and may result in the medication interfering with the animal’s body; causing unwanted symptoms.

It is imperative never to use one pet’s medication for another pet in the household. This is because many medications that are safe for dogs may not be safe for cats, or even rabbits; and vice versa. With any medication prescribed to your pet, you should not adjust this medication; unless you have spoken to your veterinary surgeon or SQP. Adjusting could cause a fatal overdose or underdose. 

All adverse reactions to a veterinary medicine must be reported to the VMD (Veterinary Medicines Directorate). This is so appropriate action is taken to avoid any further harm to all animals and people. 

When reporting a medication, you will be asked about the product (including product number and batch number), date administered, amount administered, site of administration, information about the cat (such as species, weight, age, sex) and nature of the reaction/lack of efficacy. 

How should I dispose of unused veterinary medications?

If you have any unused medication, then please return the medication back to the veterinary practice for appropriate disposal. Should you be in any doubt about the correct way to dispose of veterinary medication then please contact your veterinary practice for advice. 

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