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Life sure has changed for pet owners in the last few years. Previously, pet owners would go to the vet, get an exam and then sit in the waiting area until a technician came out with any needed prescriptions. While many owners liked the convenience, others wondered why veterinary clinics didn’t follow the same model as human medical facilities, in which prescriptions were filled by third-party pharmacies.
That change has slowly been taking place, first with the appearance of online pharmacies targeted to animal owners. Now, most big-box retailers are eyeing the lucrative world of prescription pet medication fulfillment.
Getting prescriptions filled at such major chain retailers has one big advantage: cost. Large pharmacies can do volume distribution to help keep their overheads lower than you will find at most veterinary clinics. In addition, if your pet is taking a medication that has a human generic equivalent, such as prednisone or furosemide, many pharmacies cover those in their $4 generic program, which can represent significant savings.
However, there are tradeoffs. Aside from the inconvenience of having to go to another place to get a medication instead of leaving the clinic with it in hand, many owners benefit from having a technician demonstrate medication administration before the owner leaves the clinic. This becomes particularly important with something like insulin, an injection for diabetics that has a bit of a learning curve for cat owners who are dealing with it for the first time.
Veterinarians will also know more about the potential side effects than human pharmacists, who have no training in veterinary pharmacology and often do not know the specific quirks of the feline system.
Veterinary clinics also have a wider variety of medications that are specific to pets. For example, while one box store carries the antibiotic ciprofloxacin, it does not carry the related drug enrofloxacin, which is generally considered to be a better choice for animals due to differences in metabolism. Many veterinary drugs are also specifically flavored to be appealing to pets, a small point that can make all the difference in getting a pet to actually take the medication as directed.
Third-party pharmacies can be a huge help to owners who are looking to save money in this tough economy. Owners shouldn’t be afraid to ask their veterinarian for a written prescription if they would like to try to fill it elsewhere. If there is a specific reason to get it from the hospital instead, the vet or their staff should be able to explain why that is important as well.
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang is a small-animal veterinarian from San Diego. When she's not at work or with her family of two and her four-legged creatures, you can find her blogging about life with pets at PawCurious.com. Dr. Vogelsang's blogs have previously appeared on The Daily Cat.