If you are a dog or cat owner, you will at some time be handed a medication from your veterinarian to address your furry friend's health care. To medicate your pet effectively and safely, it is helpful to understand what conditions the medications are used for, how they are typically administered and which side effects you should be watching for while your pet is being treated.
Antibiotic drugs are used to treat bacterial infections. They are not effective in treating viral infections. Antibiotic drugs are sometimes prescribed to avert the potential development of a secondary infection while a pet is undergoing treatment for an infection or condition that is not bacterial in nature. Oral antibiotic drugs are usually dispensed in a liquid, pill or capsule form. Other commonly dispensed forms include ophthalmologic drops or ointments, otic ointments and transdermal gels. Some points to remember when administering antibiotics to your pet include the following:
- Shake oral suspension antibiotics before each administration. Some oral suspension antibiotics must be stored in the refrigerator once they have been reconstituted.
- Complete the full prescribed round of antibiotic treatment, even if your pet's symptoms have resolved sooner. Failing to do so can result in a relapse of your pet's condition.
- Common side effects of antibiotic drugs include diarrhea, nausea, decreased appetite and skin rashes.
Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are prescribed to decrease inflammation and reduce pain. NSAIDs are usually dispensed in oral pill form. The duration of NSAID use may be temporary, such as when prescribed for postoperative pain management or for pain relief while treating a muscle injury. NSAIDs are also prescribed for longterm use, such as in reducing the symptoms of degenerative joint disease. Some important points to remember about NSAID use include the following:
- NSAIDs that are commonly prescribed for canine patients can be fatal for cats. Never attempt to treat your cat with an NSAID without the direction of your veterinarian.
- If your dog is taking an NSAID for an extended duration, your veterinarian will need to monitor your dog's liver and kidney function by performing periodic blood panel screenings. Long-term use of NSAIDs can pose adverse effects on your pet's liver, kidneys and gastrointestinal tract.
- Some side effects of NSAIDs include depression, decreased appetite, vomiting and diarrhea.
There are a number of uses for corticosteroid drugs, including the treatment of such inflammatory conditions as allergies, inflammatory bowel disease, feline asthma and intervertebral disk disease. Corticosteroid drugs may be dispensed as oral pills, topical sprays or creams, transdermal gels and inhalers. Some things to remember when using corticosteroids to treat your pet include the following:
- The most commonly observed side effects of corticosteroid use include increases in appetite, panting, drinking and urination. Long-term use of corticosteroids can pose more serious side effects.
- Temporary and minimal corticosteroid use is preferred. Once your pet's symptoms have subsided, your veterinarian may gradually wean down the dosage until your pet is either off the medication entirely or can be sustained at a minimal dose needed to keep the symptoms from returning.
- Some conditions, such as Addison's disease, require long-term treatment with corticosteroids.
Antiparasitic drugs are those used to kill or prevent parasites. Internal parasites include the following:
External parasites include the following:
- Mange mites
- Ear mites
The most important thing to remember when using an antiparasitic drug to kill parasites is to follow your veterinarian's instructions. Many of these drugs must be administered in more than one round of treatment at specified intervals in achieve complete eradication of all parasite life cycles that are present in your dog or cat.
Drugs to Manage Long-Term Conditions
Some commonly prescribed drugs are used to manage specific long-term medical conditions, such as thyroid conditions, diabetes, cardiac disease, epilepsy and hypertension. Keep these points in mind to achieve the best possible management of your pet's condition:
- Many of these drugs may require dosage adjustments until the optimal therapeutic dose for your pet is determined.
- Your pet's condition will require lifelong periodic monitoring and testing by your veterinarian to ensure that the current dose remains effective.
Alert Your Veterinarian
Each time your veterinarian prescribes a new medication for your pet, remind him or her of all other medications, supplements and over the counter remedies that you currently administer to your pet. If your pet has experienced any adverse drug reactions in the past, be sure to bring them to your veterinarian's attention. Once your pet begins to take the prescribed medication, monitor your furry friend for any changes in appearance or behavior. Some side effects are mild, and some often subside after a couple of days into the treatment. Others can be severe and potentially fatal. Notify your veterinarian at once if you observe any changes in your pet.
Do not hesitate to contact a veterinarian from a company like Foothills Animal Hospital if any questions or concerns arise while your pet is taking medication. Following your veterinarian's instructions and maintaining communication with him or her will ensure the best outcome for success when it comes to treating your pet's condition with medications.