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Pet owners warned of medication mistakes

Rafter the dog is seen.
January 10, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
Sarah Schuck only has pictures and memories left of her beloved 8-year-old Labrador, Rafter. The dog died after a mistake was made concerning medication dosage.

The drug store that filled Rafter's prescription made the error. The bottle's label said to give Rafter "2 1/4 teaspoons." But Schuck says the dosage her vet called into the pharmacy was for 2 1/4 cubic centimeters, which is much less medication.

That high dose, combined with other health problems, was too much. Schuck had to put Rafter to sleep.

"It was a tough realization," she said.

Just days after Rafter's death, the FDA issued a warning about a pattern of pet prescription mistakes. Investigators discovered errors stemming from simple issues like look-alike packaging, drugs with similar names and simple penmanship errors.

"The consequences can be completely devastating," said Dr. Howard Silberman, a veterinarian.

Silberman takes a lot of prescription precautions. All medications and dosages are typed into a computer, only vets or vet techs fill prescriptions and pet's pictures are printed on the label so there are no mix ups.

"We do a tremendous amount to make sure that those things don't happen," he said.

FDA investigators also found many pet medication errors come from pet owners misreading or misinterpreting labels and accidentally giving pets human drugs.

When pet prescriptions are filled in human pharmacies, like in Rafter's case, problems can arise. Abbreviations are a common cause of errors because prescription shorthand taught in veterinary school is different than in medical school. And if pet owners shop around to find the lowest cost on pet meds, they need to do a little research.

"Their primary concern should always be whether or not that pharmacist is knowledgeable in the area of veterinary medications; price should be a secondary consideration," said Carmen Catizone with the National Association Boards of Pharmacy.

To avoid a pet prescription mix up, make sure the pharmacist speaks to your vet if there are any questions. Also, verify the name and dosage of your pet's drug.

Schuck says she hopes Rafter's legacy lives on to help other pet owners avoid medication mistakes.

"Don't be afraid to ask questions," she said.


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