Just What the Vet Ordered

From special flavors to tiny doses, compounders can be a pet’s best friend.

Got a fussy dog, an anxious cat, a sickly snake or some other animal pal in need of a unique medication? You might want to see a drug compounder.

Compounders—licensed pharmacists and technicians—create custom drugs for pets as well as human patients.

“Veterinarians will call an order into us… whether for a dog, cat, rodent, snake—mostly household pets—in dosages that would, number one, be the proper medications in the proper form, in the proper strength, and in a flavor that they would accept, whether it’s bacon, chicken or beef,” says pharmacist Alan Brown, owner of Liberty Drug and Surgical in Chatham. “We make lots of different flavors.”

Cats, says Brown, present a unique problem. Often, they refuse to take a pill. “Some will take it,” he explains, “but cats would mostly get liquid, or we make a gel, a transdermal gel, where you would rub it into the top part of their ear where there are a lot of veins, and the drug actually goes right into the bloodstream.”

Some types of pets present greater challenges.

“One of my patients was a frog, and you can imagine how small a frog is,” says pharmacist David Miller, owner of Miller’s Homecare and Compounding Pharmacy in Wyckoff. “This was a $2,000 frog. It had developed something called red leg syndrome, and it needed a really tiny dose of antibiotic. In our laboratory we have very accurate scales, and we could get the ingredients and we could make things that were not commercially available.”

Compounders stock shelves with drugs and materials suitable for two-legged and four-legged creatures—even those with no legs at all.  Supplies might include the sweetener Stevia, used in compounds for both humans and pets. But the flavors used for pet medications—ranging from liver to fish—are often quite different than those preferred by humans. “Cats are very picky about flavors,” says Miller.

No matter how picky the pet, compounders are there to help.

“It’s all kinds of fun stuff—we’ve had to do IV therapy on a python,” Miller laughs. “The nurse was not happy about taking care of a snake, but she did it.

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