Medications – Prescriptions and Over-the-Counter Drugs
There are two distinct groups of medications you will find at your veterinary hospital. One is the group of products labelled “prescription” and the others are “over-the-counter medications”.
The main difference between the two is that prescription medications are aptly named as the must be prescribed by a medical practitioner for use in your pet. Over-the-counter drugs are safe, approved medications that do not require a veterinary doctors’ prescription to be dispensed (but may require a brief initial exam before they can be sold).
Prescriptions are required for all antibiotics, heart drugs, anti-inflammatory drugs, pain medications and other such drugs that necessitate the exam, diagnosis and selection of medication relevant to the presenting ailment. Many prescriptions (such as antibiotics, eye medications, certain de-worming and other internal parasite control drugs, etc) run a short course and have a limit on how many times they can be refilled.
Over-the-counter medications can be purchased without a prescription and rarely have a limit on their long-term use. This group generally includes ear cleaners, omega supplements, digestion, liver and kidney supports, some types of de-worming products, and immune system support products. Depending on which country you live in, Flea, Tick and Heartworm preventatives are also considered “over the counter” products and generally only require a brief exam and weight recording one yearly (or every other year) to be dispensed.
Prescription medications will most likely require an examination of your pet before they can be dispensed for the first time. Many prescriptions (such as insulin, allergy medications, heart/kidney/liver drugs and so forth) will generally require a follow-up exam before they can be re-filled. This is due to the fact that your veterinarian will need to assess your pets’ progress and response to the prescribed medication and the dosage it was prescribed at. If progress is favourable, a certain number of re-fills will be issued.
Over-the-counter medications can often be dispensed just by your veterinarian reviewing your pets file without an exam. Digestive aids, nutritional supplements, immune system boosters, ear cleansers, joint health supplements, and so forth are generally safe enough to be dispensed by your vet provided your pet has been seen recently enough that there have been no major changes in its health.
When getting a prescription or product that will require re-fills or will be an on-going purchase to maintain your pets’ health, purchase the largest amount of the medication that you can afford at one time. Often drugs are dispensed in monthly or bi-monthly dose amounts. This ends up with you paying extra money in re-fill costs, as opposed to getting several months worth at one time. Some more costly medications may be financially challenging and will need to be re-filled more often in smaller amounts.
Talk to your veterinarian about their dispensing fees especially if you have a pet. or pets on multiple medications. Many clinics will offer a reduced re-fill fee if you are purchasing several on-going medications.