Medication Errors in Pets: How to Lower the Risk

MONDAY, May 17, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- You want to keep Fido or Fluffy safe, so when they need medication, it's important to ask questions and guard against dosing errors, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says.

"A number of the medication errors that occur in the treatment of people are the same as those we are seeing in the treatment of animals," said Linda Kim-Jung. She's a safety reviewer in the Center for Veterinary Medicine's (CVM's) Division of Veterinary Product Safety, which collaborates with the human drug center at the FDA, the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, Division of Medication Errors Prevention and Analysis.

Errors can happen because of a misunderstanding about an abbreviation on the prescription. For example, CVM has found that the abbreviation "SID" (once daily), sometimes used in veterinary prescriptions, was misinterpreted as "BID" (twice daily) and "QID" (four times daily), resulting in drug overdoses.

"If the vet has prescribed a drug where there's a strong correlation between the dose and the severity of side effects, an overdose can have serious consequences," Kim-Jung said in an FDA news release. "Poor penmanship can add to the problem, too."

They also happen when prescriptions are written without a leading zero or with a trailing zero, which can potentially lead to a dangerous overdose error.

"So, a 5 mg dose written as 5.0 mg can be misread as 50 mg, potentially resulting in a 10-times overdose if the order is not clearly written," Kim-Jung explained.

Sometimes, what the veterinarian says and what the pharmacist hears may lead to an error for similar-sounding medications during a verbal order. Drug selection errors can happen when labels or packaging look alike.

"Mistakes can happen at the veterinary clinic, but also in the pharmacy which fills the prescription, and at home, when the pet owner gives the animal the meds," Kim-Jung said.

Solutions include asking a lot of questions. The FDA recommends avoiding confusion by inquiring about the name of the drug, what it's supposed to do and asking how much and how many times a day to give it, so you can cross-reference this information with that on the prescription label.

Also ask how to store it, whether to give it with food, what to do if you miss a dose and whether you should continue to give your pet the medicine if your pet feels better. Ask about serious reactions and when to call for help. If the medication is being delivered in a way that might be confusing, ask your vet to show you how to use it.

Help your vet help you by keeping a list of medications and over-the-counter products your pet is taking and bringing it with you to the vet's office. Discuss any serious or chronic health conditions your animal has if you're seeing a new vet, the FDA advises.

Avoid mix-ups at home by keeping animal drugs stored away from human medications. Keep them in their original labeled containers. Do not give human medications to your animal unless directed by the vet, the agency recommends.

More information

The American Veterinary Medical Association has more information on preventive pet health care.

SOURCE: U.S. Food and Drug Administration, news release, May 13, 2021

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