articles for pet owners

Why I Stepped Away from the Pharmacy Counter

You’ll rarely find me checking prescriptions on the pharmacy counter. Don’t get me wrong, I respect and am so thankful for the wonderful pharmacists that do this job every day at our stores. They are resilient and the backbone of our company. They help bring in the funds to support what I do. But, I’m consumed by a cause.

Years ago, when I first noticed pharmacies advertising their ability to fill pet medications, I thought a) we don’t learn about caring for animal patients in pharmacy school and b) this is a tragedy waiting to happen.

When you walk into a pharmacy, there is a good possibility that the person standing behind the counter isn’t properly trained to care for your animal. Veterinary pharmacotherapy is almost a nonexistent part of the Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) curriculum. Many students graduate having never learned that acetaminophen is highly toxic to a cat and that xylitol could kill a dog.

The truth is, this matters. Every single species, be it dog, cat, horse, ferret, rabbit, etc. will metabolize medications differently. Even some dog breeds need to be treated differently with the same medication.

Without any sort of training, the average pharmacist can make a poor medication choice when taking care of your pet. Sure, the veterinarian sends over the prescription, but there are several more considerations that take place. Commercial products on the shelf may contain another ingredient that could seriously harm your pet. If they choose one of those, you’re headed to the emergency clinic. Even compounds need to be thought through. You cannot just put Drug A in Solution B and voila! you have medicine for your pet. Compound formulations must be tested, validated and made appropriately before they are ever suitable for a patient.

But blazing my own trail hasn’t been a cake walk. Some days are hard. Very hard. Many people have no idea what my profession entails. Veterinary pharmacists are a rare breed. Heck, a community veterinary pharmacist is an even rarer breed. Most veterinary pharmacists work in teaching hospitals and research settings. Not in retail pharmacies. That is what I wanted to change and a value that Realo embraces as a company.

The need for reputable veterinary pharmacy programs has given me so much drive. I radiate excitement when people ask me what I do. This profession is not just my dream job, it’s in my blood. Being a veterinary pharmacist is what I live, breathe and it’s what gets me up in the morning. I’m working towards bringing awareness about the importance of veterinary pharmacotherapy and the need for more training in the retail pharmacy setting. We still have a long way to come as a profession and if we truly want to make a change, we are going to have to continue to think (and work) outside of the box and away from the counter.