expired veterinary drugs could threaten pet health and cause a pet emergencyAn ear infection here, a cut paw pad there, and a routine surgery later, many times as a pet owner you may find yourself with some leftover medications for your furry friend. If you are like most of us, you probably find yourself stashing extras in a leftover cabinet, in hopes that you can use it a little later.

Not all drugs keep, and most medications do have an expiration date. Knowing whether to keep or toss isn’t always easy. Luckily, your friends at Huntington Veterinary Hospital know just what to do when it comes to expired veterinary drugs.

Veterinary Drug Safety

Using leftover medications in your pet’s medical supplies isn’t always as benign as it sounds. Over time, drugs may undergo chemical changes that can render them less effective, or, in less frequent cases, harmful.

When it comes to keeping veterinary drugs that you haven’t used, consider the following:

  • An appropriate medication that is less effective due to age or storage may delay your pet from receiving timely help with a medical issue.
  • A medication may not always be the safest or most effective choice for the recurrence of an issue. Always call us first before administering anything to your pet, even if previously prescribed.
  • Be sure to read the prescribing information closely, so that the medication is stored for optimum efficacy (consider temperature, humidity, light exposure).
  • Keep your pet’s medications separate from your own to prevent accidents.
  • Antibiotics almost always should be given in their entirety. If you have leftovers, you may be contributing to antibiotic resistance.
  • Check the expiration date on the packaging; if you can’t find one, consider pills and tablets expired six months from prescribing and mixed liquids ineffective past two weeks.

It may be tempting to treat a pet with something you have at home already, but there are many instances where we might recommend a different course of action. It is essential that we work together to keep your pet healthy, and even more important that we know if your pet is having relapsing health issues.

Disposing of Expired Veterinary Drugs

Once you have determined which medications need to go, it is important to dispose of them properly. You may be tempted throw them in the garbage or flush them down the toilet, but keep in mind that our waste and sewage systems are not typically equipped to clean these residues out of the system. Recognize, too, that carelessly tossed medications may result in accidental ingestion and poisoning.

While we would love to take medications back, we can no longer use expired medications or those that have been outside of our clinic. In the case of controlled substances, it is often illegal for us to accept them for disposal.

Consider cleaning out your medicine cabinet around an National Drug Take Back Day sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Agency (the next one is scheduled for October 27, 2018). You might also take medications to a permanent disposal location registered with the DEA.

If these options are not available, sometimes trash disposal or flushing may be appropriate. Follow the FDA guidelines to dispose of medications properly in these instances.

It is wise to go through your medicine cabinet once or twice a year in order to clear out expired veterinary drugs and items that you will not use. While we have no issues using up previously prescribed medications, it is important that we work as a team to be sure that they are the safest and most efficacious choice for your pet.