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How much thought do you spare for the safe storage and use of pet medicines?
You wouldn’t be the first person to leave the childproof lid off your cat’s meds and keep the open bottle on the countertop. But this invites problems on so many levels.
There are veterinary poison advice lines and these are a first point of contact when a pet has been poisoned. They also keep stats on the causes of toxicity, and accidental poisoning with prescription medications right up there.
From purchase to disposal, here are the factors to bear in mind for the safe use of pet medicines.
Purchasing Pet Meds
Your sick cat needs meds. The vet has them on the shelf, but you pay a premium price for the convenience. The other option is to ask for a written prescription (for which there is a small charge) and use at an online pharmacy.
However, online pharmacies vary in quality. The worst offenders take your money and supply fake meds. These are often located in India or China, so rule number one is to use an online pharmacy in your own country. Australia, the US, and UK all have governmental control over the supply of pharmaceuticals in their territories so you should be guaranteed genuine medications.
Red lights that should make you press ‘Delete’ when researching an online pharmacy include:
- Offering medications without a vet prescription (No matter what rouse they use to get round the law, such as the in-house vet. 99.9% of the time that vet doesn’t exist and the pills are fake.)
- An offshore internet pharmacy.
Safe Storage of Meds
Pet meds are highly palatable to make them easier to give, but this also makes them tempting to steal. Cats are agile and usually great jumpers so it doesn’t take much for a cat to jump up onto the counter, knock over a bottle of meds and scoff down the lot. . . resulting in an overdose. To avoid this kind of disaster, please make sure that you keep lids where they belong – firmly fastened to the medication bottle.
Ideally, you need a lockable storage cabinet separate from any human medications. Otherwise you run the risk of reaching in and grabbing the wrong bottle, and giving the cat a people pill or vice versa.
We also recommend that you always store medications in the original packaging with the name of the cat they’re prescribed for clearly visible. Again, this helps reduce the chances of the wrong medication going into the wrong animal. . . or person.
There are also common sense basics to bear in mind, such as storing within the correct temperature range (which you’ll find written on the packaging), using once opened or within a certain timeframe, and disposing of once the medication is outside the use by date.
Even when you store pet meds correctly there is still the chance of slip ups and human error. One example is accidental double-dosing. This often occurs when both pet parents mistakenly think the other has not given the cat their daily meds, with the result that the cat receives two doses instead of the one dose prescribed.
There are several ways around this, which sound pedantic but a little prior planning could prevent a serious slip up. Our suggestions include:
- Put the cat’s weekly pills in a Monday to Sunday pill dispenser (these are widely available for people). That way when the divider is empty, you know the medication has been given.
- Have a tick box chart and mark off when meds have been given.
- Make one person, and one person only, responsible for giving the cat its medication.
If you live in a multi-cat or multi-pet household, then put measures in place to ensure the correct pet gets the correct medication. Hiding a pill in food can backfire badly if the wrong pet scoffs down the food – medication and all. This is especially worrying if you have a cat and a dog, since many dog medications are potentially deadly to cats.
Disposing of Drugs
Imagine discarding a packet of unused medication in the trash, only to have the neighbour’s dog rummage through and eat the tablets. This could have dire consequences and is entirely avoidable with safe, responsible disposal of medications.
Whilst you can dispose of pharmaceuticals in your household garbage, be sure to do so safely. The trick is to make the tablets less appealing and then dispose of them in a secure container. A top tip is to mix the tablets with used cat litter, and place the lot in a sealed container in the trash. Alternatively, take unused medications to your pharmacy or veterinary clinic, where they can arrange safe disposal.
Be careful about flushing medications down the toilet. This may seem a guaranteed super-safe way to dispose of drugs, but there are big drawbacks. For a start the medication will get into the sewage supply and could then contaminate ground water or recycled water. So this option is best avoided unless you’ve done your research and are confident the medication is safe to flush.
Last but not least, be extra careful with sharps, such as needles and syringes. A diabetic cat will go through a lot of these, which require a sharps container for disposal. Your vet or pharmacy can sell you an inexpensive sharp safe, you can then return the full container to them for safe disposal.
As a stop gap, you can also store the sharps in a rigid plastic container with a lid (e.g. an ice cream tub). But be aware that if you take this to the vet, the staff then have to decant the syringes into a sharps safe, hence putting them at risk of needle stick injuries.
Finally, sparing a thought for the safe use and disposal of medications can save you a lot of heartache. Accidents can and do happen, but they tend to happen more to people who don’t plan ahead, than to those who take proper precautions. Save yourself the anguish and keep your pets safe by thinking ahead and being aware of how to safely use pet meds.
What steps do you take in your household to ensure that pet medications are handled safely? OR what safety precautions do you plan to implement now?