Why Some Are Stealing Medications From Their Pets

By Jen Christensen

PHILADELPHIA (CNN) — Some of us may be sharing a little too much with our pets.

Sure, people share their dinners with their dogs, and some share their beds, but that kind of closeness generally isn’t as much of a major danger to human health as this new kind of closeness uncovered by unsuspecting scientists. There is now scientific evidence that some people may be sharing their pets’ medications.

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The use of pet meds was so unexpected, the scientists didn’t even ask about it in their survey about unprescribed antibiotic use. But people must have done it frequently, as they actually wrote it into their answers, saying it is one way they get off-prescription antibiotics.

The study ran in the recent edition of Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy. Of the 400 demographically diverse adults surveyed, far too many people shared that they used antibiotics without a doctor’s supervision, according to the co-authors, who are doctors in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine.

Of the randomly selected adults in Houston, 5% reported using antibiotics without a prescription in the past 12 months, 14.2% stored them at home in case of an emergency, and a whopping 25.4% said they intended to use antibiotics in an unprescribed manner at some time in the future.

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The major source of these rogue antibiotics was not people’s pets; that information was volunteered by just 4% of those surveyed. The rest came from more predictable sources: Twenty percent got them from well-meaning friends or family, 12% said they squirreled them away from the last time they were sick, and 24% said they bought them in another country.

The other survey surprise was that 40% were able to buy antibiotics without a prescription in American pharmacies.

“We thought that was some other country’s problems, not ours. That was an additional surprise,” said Dr. Larissa Grigoryan, who has studied non-doctor-prescribed antibiotic use in other countries and found that Americans tend to hoard more antibiotics than other parts of the world.

Though the people who take their pets’ meds are a smaller number in this survey, it certainly wasn’t a source the authors anticipated, Grigoryan said.

Some veterinarians suggested that they had heard about patients seeking pain medication for themselves rather than for their animals and have created awareness programs and workshops to help vets address the problem and to watch out for it. The need for antibiotics was a new one, however.

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The American Veterinary Medical Association suggests that vets avoid giving unlimited refills of prescriptions or any other activity that might result in misuse of drugs. It did not mention antibiotics specifically.

Study co-author Dr. Barbara Trautner was not as surprised. Though the survey hadn’t included the option, she said she has been questioned closely by her pharmacist when frequently picking up an antibiotic prescription for her daughter’s pet frogs, Brooke and Tiny Bubbles. Frogs are susceptible to a condition called red leg, a kind of gangrene that can be cleared up with an antibiotic, she explained.

As much as she has pet antibiotics around the house, she said, she would never be tempted to bogart Tiny Bubbles’ stash.

“We metabolize things differently than animals do, and these drugs are formulated for animals,” Trautner said.

If a patient were ever to ask her about taking their pet’s medication, she said, she would compare it with how chocolate can be poisonous for dogs but fine for humans. Similarly, it may be dangerous for humans to take drugs that are created for an animals’ system.

Trautner is, however, empathetic with people who do take Fido or Fluffy’s antibiotics. She knows it’s often tough to get in to see a doctor, and it can be expensive, but taking a pet’s meds is not the answer.

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Most people who said they took antibiotics without a doctor’s guidance did so to treat cold-like symptoms. Often, antibiotics won’t even help in many of those cases. Perhaps more education is needed, Grigoryan said, about what responds to antibiotics and what doesn’t.

In fact, taking your pet’s antibiotics or using antibiotics without a prescription can be a big threat to human health. Studies have showed that communities of people who often take antibiotics without a prescription tend to have more problems with antibiotic resistance.

The world is already facing the potential loss of effective antibiotics, which are some of the greatest advances in modern medicine. That could mean a time when simple infections could pose a much more serious threat to us all, animal and human alike.

Bottom line: Even if they are sitting in easy reach in your cat’s basket, please keep your paws off your pets’ medicine.

The-CNN-Wire ™ & © 2016 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.


One Comment

  1. Marcia Fisher says:

    I’ve used Doxycycline prescribed for my dog several times. Clears up the occasional UTI very well. I’ve also used eye drops prescribed for me in my dog’s eyes to clear up some conjunctivitis. Also worked like a charm. If you do the research on the drug name, dosages, and warnings, you’re pretty safe.

  2. George Craig says:

    Way back when my parents ran a farm, we discovered the massive difference in the cost of drugs labeled for humans, and those labeled for animals. In nearly every case, they are the exact same drugs, produced by the same manufacturers.
    When my unemployable brother in law got the scabies, despite me telling him what was wrong, he still “borrowed” $100 from me to go to the doctor, and was prescribed 0.5% permethrin. A half-ounce tube was $95 at the pharmacy. On the other hand, 8 ounces cost $4.99 at the farm supply store. The same goes for antibiotics. My mom is elderly and on a fixed income. She was prescribed an antibiotic that cost $158 at the pharmacy or $12.99 at the farm supply store. Also, you don’t need to spend $100 to visit the doctor when you know exactly what is wrong, like an inner ear infection, strep throat, scabies, etc. There are a lot of other traumatized Iraq war veterans, elderly people on fixed incomes, and low income workers who can’t afford the prices that pharmacies charge and must rely on farm supply stores for their prescriptions. It’s not a problem, it is a partial solution to our completely idiotic prescription drug system.

  3. Tommie hindenburg says:

    Used to be Doggie-Doggie where’s your bone, now it’s Doggie-Doggie where’s your drugs

  4. Casey Key says:

    When I lost my job in 09 I was paying $380 for my part of the company plan for family health insurance. My deductible was $500. They asked me back in 2013 with a 10k raise. Family plan at that time was reduced to a silver plan with a $5k deductible and no coverage for specialist. The out of pocket cost where $765. My company was covering $600 as apposed to the $400. Plus they payed a gap insurance of $125 to cover the specialist that used to be covered. Now the family plan is $840 dollars our of pocket costs. What average employee can afford that? That being said, since then I have purchased fishmox and other fish antibiotics to treat my family. You can get the dosage information easily online and they work like a charm. I required antibiotics in 2010, they where going to cost me $175 for 8 pills. The Z-Pac. Instead I purchased the fish antibiotics. I got 50 of the same kind for $65, I recapitulated them because the casings do not dissolve, I got the gel caps from capsules from a healthful store. Total cost, $72 for 7x the amount of pills and they WORKED real well. We have used them many times with the exception of Amox because some stores you can get the prescription filled for $8 if they have the allotment.

    Never thought about pain meds but you have to have a vets prescription for those and they are cheaper but not by a whole lot. Fintinel (sp?) That is a tranquilizer for pets so Im not even sure you can get a vet prescription for that.

  5. Andrei Bilderburger says:

    Sharing your pet’s prescription isn’t the answer. Repealing the prescription laws is. Let the doc’s who know what they are doing make money on consultation alone. Let the ones who make money by passing out permission slips go broke.

  6. iambicpentamaster says:

    Anthony Weiner is using his gerbil’s Viagra.

  7. Danny S. says:

    I’ve known about this for years. If the possibility of people getting antibiotics that way was really “so unexpected” to these scientists, it just goes to show out of touch they are with what the obvious consequences of policies they support will be.

  8. Who cares if people want to take opiates let them – they are going to take them anyway – chirst let’s get this drug nonsense behind us already –

    1. Joseph says:

      A Libertarian, eh? the fact is, in the US so many people die each week from opioid overdose. It does not make sense to encourage any more folks to become addicted. Witness, some years ago the UK govt. announced that anybody who wanted to try heroin, cocaine, etc. could get a script from their Dr. They did not stop the program till they had 50 thousand new heroin addicts on their drug rolls. No friend. the wanton consumption of illegal narcotics is not a good idea.

  9. TH says:

    How does it make any sense for a provider to coerce contact and billings in order to obtain many / most prescriptions? They don’t understand the drugs any better than most patients and physicians stand at a dramatic disadvantage to pharmacists (who should be prescribing…let the doctors diagnose). Further, the physicians are corrupt…anyone notice the carousel of pharmaceutical sales reps flowing into your physician’s office? It’s sickening. This is what really dictates if and what is prescribed.

    The FDA was formed to make sure labels were accurate. It was not suppose to remove access. And all the claptrap about unintended consequences hasn’t proved out in numerous other nations. Indeed, they have better access to the basics.

  10. mike says:

    “We metabolize things differently than animals do, and these drugs are formulated for animals,” Trautner said.

    This is a crock, you can use the pill identifier and it is the same exact pill that a human would get, at least on all the ones my pets have been prescribed.

  11. qwerpoiu says:

    This is a problem caused by our stupid-ass restrictions on access to drugs. If we were in a free country like Brazil or Mexico, we could buy most all drugs over the counter, without prescription. I make a point of doing that whenever I travel there. The worst thing is having to pay a doctor to get a prescription.

    I also pay no attention to the expiration date on drugs, figuring that it’s just a ruse to get me to purchase more docs and drugs. In Brazil, the clinic student-docs examine and provide the drugs for free.

    Examples are Mebendazole and Metronidazole, common drugs to treat worms and Giardia. You need a prescription in Amerika, but can walk into a drug store in Brazil and buy 3 tabs for a buck or two, without wasting the time to see a doc.

    1. betty says:

      This is a BS story put out by the lying media, the liar. traitor democrats have stolen the election

  12. sam darby says:

    Stupid headline. If I pay for the prescription, it’s mine, not the dog’s. Stupid article. This has been going on for decades. Why is it anyone’s business?

  13. RD Hood says:

    The real question is: Why are human patients charged 200-300-400-1000% more for EXACTLY the same drugs? if a pill cost $2 for a dog, why does the exact same pill cost $10 for an American citizen in the U.S.? why are drug prices in Canada/India 1/10th as much as the U.S.? The reasons are many, but if a drug company can make money by selling to vets, they can make money selling to humans at 1/10th the price.

    1. sam darby says:

      Get your doctor to write a 3 mo. presc. for anything that’s chronic. Fax or email it to any of the pharmacies in Canada. You can check on where it’s made if that bothers you. Mostly the drugs are from Australia, NZ, European countries. Canada has it set up so for me, it’s easier than driving into town and waiting on this slow little town drugstore. Call 24/7, toll free. They call a month before it runs out and ask if you want it refilled. Saves me about 65% on one drug and I have Medicare D that is almost useless. If the doctor won’t do it, find another doctor. (Can’t get controlled drugs but antibiotics, most everything.)

  14. Doug Davis says:

    ERR You took Scoobie’s roxy, ruff ruff! Don’t take your dogs barkiturates!

  15. Along with multigenerational families all under the same roof and a return to subsistence agriculture, having to take animals medicines because human meds are too expensive is what liberals really mean by “progress”.

  16. Kevin M. says:

    The government started this when they moved the ‘most abused’ (And least dangerous compared to CS2 like fentanyl, oxycodone) drugs to Schedule 2 – which severely restricts amount and usually requires MORE office visits.

    These include the formulations that have APAP (Tylenol) co-formulated with hydorcodone that originally were formulated for the “opioid sparring effect” with the main intent to reduce amount of respiratory depressing opioids needed and decrease overdoses while providing the same relief from pain.

    By moving up the schedule and cutting off the supply (some legitimate some not) and forcing people first to heroin (Back to being an epidemic, like in the 60s and 70s) – then to veterinary meds – the government 1) Creates a massive Spending Bill; “Opioid abuse and Prevention act” (Whatever they are calling it now) – requiring pharmacies, local doctors, health department, ect to purchase Naloxone Auto-injectors (O.D. reversal – manufactured by Big Pharma) – and 2) Create more regulation and additional measures to make it harder to get medications for your pets as well as yourself.

    Then there is “OBAMACARE” which mandates a “Opioid treatment Provision,: requiring some plans to foot the bill for the same. Your being duped once again. Crisis created by government – in the end it will not only keep you from your doctor – but also from medications – unless you have an endless supply of money. This effort is “embraced” by both parties although the Republicans are now claiming this to be their “Signature legislation” since they are able to do little else but use corruption as a financial instrument.

    Vote out all establishment crooks that aid Big Pharma (Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is the #1 recipient of lobbyist funds from pharmaceutical industry).

    1. Bob Neil says:

      Free wheeling drug legalization is what everyone should want?

      1. Eliot says:

        “Free wheeling drug legalization” is what Bob got out of that comment? So Bob just announced to us all that he has no sense of moderation, and no common sense, either.

  17. Ted E. Baer says:

    Can I get some sedatives for my pet Elephant?
    He gets really anxious when I bathe him

  18. Rick Conner says:

    Interesting. Our insurance agent suggested ( quietly and off the record ) when obamacare gets implemented fully that our best bet was to find a good vet that would work with you.

  19. Dude says:

    You can also use antibiotics for tropical fish (available at pet stores). They’re the exact same antibiotics that your doctor will prescribe to you. Research online for information regarding dosing, etc. Stock up. You never who when Obamacare will make insurance too expensive to afford.

    1. Frank Walkington says:

      Totally. Store my stash in the freezer where these drugs will keep safely nearly indefinitely. I have not used any of my antibiotics in the last four or five years. But it’s comforting to know they are there in case of emergency. Back then I did need an antibiotic for a badly infected tooth. Can tell you: they work great! I saved a trip to the dentist and have been fine ever since.

  20. Jas Aub says:

    AMOXFIN for your fish’s sore throat.

  21. Java says:

    Thank you to all of the obama voters and his obamacare policies which have destroyed healthcare and caused prices to skyrocket. Keep voting democrat if you want more of this failure at every level.

  22. Roger says:

    Thanks to Obamacare my last script for amoxicillin from my dermatologist cost me $1100.00! and that’s WITH my insurance! One 10 day prescription was more than my house payment!!

    1. Vicky Bevis says:

      You are FOS Roger. I”m a retired nurse & have a vial of Amoxicillin 500 mg. sitting in the closet that I use when I go to the dentist. I pay maybe $15 for it at a small, local pharmacy.

      I also see a Dermatologist twice a yr. due to high risk for Melanoma & have other skin difficulties, some of which are appropriately treated by Amoxicillin. It’s one of the CHEAPEST drugs I use.

      1. Larry says:

        I had to pay 900 dollars out of pocket for Amoxicillin with my insurance. This is getting bad.

      2. Frank Walkington says:

        It is important you understand, Vicky, that Obamacare does NOT treat all persons the same. It is entirely believable that your experience differs from that of other posters here. Some Americans have been helped by Obamacare. But large numbers of us have been harmed tremendously, even unbelievably.

    2. David Alster says:

      Nah, Walmart about $15 for a 90 day supply.

  23. Tom says:

    Dr. Trautner is being very disingenuous when she says that “we metabolize things differently than animals do, and these drugs are formulated for animals.” Yes, we do metabolize some things differently but we do not metabolize these drugs any differently at all. These drugs are sold for animals, but they are the exact same as the drugs sold for humans and, usually, they both come from the same manufacturer. The “animal drugs” will affect you no differently than “human drugs” but no doctor will tell you that, because it hurts the pharmaceutical business, since you can buy antibiotics much more cheaply than through a prescription.

    1. Frank Walkington says:

      Well stated, Tom. Any doctor writing a piece like this must write for everyone. And many persons lack the good sense to use antibiotics prudently on their own. So the doctor seeks to “do no harm”.

      Also, let’s face facts, when people self prescribe any antibiotic successfully it can mean a doctor visit is not necessary. Such as that is not good for business.

    2. Kevin M. says:

      Technically the GMP (“Good Manufacturing Practices” ) are far less strenuous in terms of QC and producing pedigrees from where the source materials come from – along with sterility, purity, contamination standards. Not a big deal when a fish med manufacture messes up and puts some hepato-toxic (Toxic to the Liver) ingredient in there that kills some of your fish (oops). You take it – who knows. Recall Hydroxycut accidentally put some of the same in some of its largely “unregulated” supplement for humans. Your risk is higher with antibiotics from the fish store. So if you HAVE TO risk it – then you have to – but if not, shop around for the best deal. Most pharmacies have HUGE variations in pricing.

  24. Bob Neil says:

    Feds have recently cracked down on “pet med” availability online, one specifically is azithromycin.

    The stated reason is because of resistance STD strains and people self medicating…..

  25. Bob Neil says:

    Gist of the story: “Because there are stupid people, we need laws to prevent everyone from managing their own health”.

  26. Sam Darby says:

    This writer is very naïve and is overlooking the fact that Americans often can’t afford a doctor’s visit and a prescription. A writer for CNN couldn’t possibly imagine know she’s coming down with yet another ear infection, no money to go to the doctor, etc. So hell yes, go to the pet store and get another batch of penicillin. People have been using animal prescriptions for decades. It IS THE SAME THING. Just look it up and dose according to size. And Jen Christensen: here’s the thing. When I’m getting so sick I KNOW amoxicillin is the only thing that’s going to help, I DON’T GIVE A RIP ABOUT WHAT MAY HAPPEN TO THE WORLD BECAUSE I MIGHT CONTRIBUTE TO IMMUNITY. Wake up.

  27. Bill Smith says:

    This is the one of the problems of the powers that be lieing to us when someone tells you something… Who knows?

  28. scott says:

    I keep fish mox around for infections; why bother with a doctor visit and a trip to the pharmacy just for a few pills of amoxicillin?

  29. BigGrrr says:

    Kramer stole dog medicine from Smuckers! https://youtu.be/wXeV5cqb_3Y

  30. texheim says:

    You can get fish mox without an Rx at the fish shoppe and it’s the same amoxicillin.

  31. B.S. I’m a retired nurse. “Fishamox” (amoxicillin) can be bought anywhere, online, pet stores etc. for 1/10 the price.
    I’ve taken it for bacterial (NOT VIRAL) sinus infections more than once and at 65 I’m still here and very healthy. Notice they don’t get into anything more than the resistance that can occur with short dosing. The statement “formulated differently for animals”? So they spent millions doing blind studies on guppies? I doubt it. It’s why I left healthcare; it’s all about the $$$$. BTW, refrigerated antibiotics last forever. They don’t want you to know that either.

    1. Frank Walkington says:

      Spot on. +1 to everything you wrote except:

      Skip the refrigerator and store, instead, in the freezer. I have meds there that will be safe and effective long after I’m dead.

  32. Unkel says:

    That explains why I’ve been lifting my leg when I pee and sniffing everyone’s butt crack.

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