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OTC Products – Why Should You Consult Your Veterinarian First?


by Lorie Huston, DVM on July 12, 2014

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One of the situations I see on a daily basis in my veterinary practice involves pet owners who are giving their pet over-the-counter (OTC) pharmaceuticals, flea and tick medications, food supplements, and other products. While this isn’t always a bad thing, it’s not always a good thing either.

Which OTC products are safe for your pet? Which are beneficial? Which are appropriate for your pet’s situation? Your veterinarian can help answer these questions.Photo credit: DepositPhotos.com/Andrey_Kuzmin

Let me say, first of all, that I am not opposed to using OTC products when they are appropriate. I regularly recommend OTC products of various types to my veterinary patients. But the key is to use these OTC products when appropriate and to them use correctly.

Many OTC products, even when appropriate for your pet, are dosed differently than in people. If you dose according to a product label intended for a person, you may be significantly overdosing or underdosing your pet, depending on the product.

Though many OTC products can be safely used for pets, others can be dangerous for your pet. Examples of products that are safe for most people but not safe for pets include aspirin, ibuprofen, acetominophen, and many others. I see clients regularly in my office that use these types of products thinking they are helping their pet, only to discover that the product has actually made their pet’s problem worse.

Even those products that are safe may not be appropriate for your particular pet. Good examples of this include any of the OTC flea and tick preventives. Safety and efficacy vary widely between different products in this category. And other factors must be considered when deciding which flea and/or tick preventive is most appropriate as well. Your veterinarian is in a position to know what parasites are present in your area. Your pet may need protection against more than just fleas and ticks. In addition, your veterinarian will know which products are most effective in your area and which are safest for your individual pet (based on your pet’s species, age, and specific health issues). This is an important discussion to have with your veterinarian. Your veterinarian is much more knowledgeable about this subject than the pet store employee who likely has very little, if any, training in veterinary medicine and knows little more than what products are offered at their place of employment.

As I was writing this post, an excellent example occurred in the form of a comment/question posted to this blog post: Best Flea Treatment for Dogs and Cats. The comment reads as follows:

“The problem with my puppy’s fleas is that he’s too young and the people at the pet store think I’d have to wait until he’s 3 months old but I want to try to cure him now. Is there anything you could recommend? He’s 2 months and a week old.”

The information this person received from pet store (assuming that this owner correctly understood the pet store employee and there was no misunderstanding) was incorrect. There are numerous products that can be used on puppies to control fleas. Some can be used as early as 7 weeks of age. This pet owner is making a good decision in not waiting to control the puppy’s fleas. Delaying treatment will allow the fleas to continue to reproduce, making the infestation worse as time progresses. In addition, it also puts the puppy at risk for blood loss and the development of other health issues. All of this is something on which the pet owner’s veterinarian could have easily offered the correct advice. Fortunately, this pet owner had the presence of mind to question the pet store’s recommendation and, hopefully, the puppy is on his way to receiving the proper treatment.

Food supplements are another area that can potentially be problematic. In some cases, supplementation may be beneficial or even mandatory. However, there is also the risk that supplementation, if done incorrectly, could potentially lead to a unbalanced diet, resulting in either an excess or deficiency of a given nutrient or nutrients.

The important message here is not to avoid OTC products for your pet, but to consult with your veterinarian before you begin administering any new product to find out whether the product is safe and appropriate for your pet.

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About Lorie Huston, DVM

Lorie Huston is an accomplished veterinarian, an award winning blogger, a talented author and a certified veterinary journalist. She is available for writing assignments, blogging and social media consultation, and SEO strategy.

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This article is posted and shared through the courtesy of the Pet Health Care Gazette