Do you have pet medications hanging out in your medicine cabinet that you are debating keeping or tossing? It can be a hard decision to make. On one hand, keeping leftover medication could save you some money or a vet visit. On the other hand, though, should you really be giving expired pet medications? Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital is here to shed a little light on the topic.
When cleaning out your pet’s medications, starting with the expiration date is a good jumping-off point. All pet medications that we prescribe have an expiration date. This date can typically be found stamped to the medication bottle or printed on the prescription label provided to you.
If no expiration date can be found, and the medication is over six months old, it should be assumed to be expired. Mixed liquid medications are usually not good for more than a week or two after being reconstituted.
Expiration dates are important because they help you to understand how (and when) to best use the medication. As a medication reaches its expiration date, it typically undergoes chemical changes due to exposure and environmental conditions. These changes result in loss of efficacy, decreased potency, and even harmful chemical changes.
The manufacturer of an individual drug determines what that medication’s shelf life is. Some drugs are dated several years out, while others may last only weeks or months.
It is best to adhere to the manufacturer-determined expiration date, as we cannot always rely on visible changes to alert us that a drug has gone bad.
What Expired Pet Medications to Keep
You should not keep any expired pet medications. Administering an expired pet medication can:
- Result in the failure of your pet to get better
- Delay your furry friend from receiving appropriate treatment
- Perpetuate antibiotic resistance
- Provide potential drug interactions or medical concerns that prevent us from most effectively treating your pet
Some non-expired medications can be worth keeping. Be sure to heed any storage instructions (temperature, humidity, light exposure) on the label. Please, however, avoid any temptation to administer them without veterinary guidance. A quick phone call can help avoid potential risk factors or drug interactions.
It is also worth noting that while some human medications are used in pets, others can be toxic or are dosed very differently. Resist the urge to administer these medications without veterinary guidance.
Now that we know what medications you are keeping and which you need to dispose of, how do you do so properly? Tossing drugs in the trash can certainly cause problems, especially if there are small children or pets who like to raid the garbage in the home.
Our water system is not readily equipped to remove drug residues, either, so flushing or dumping drugs down the drain is not ideal.
Gather up your unwanted drugs and:
- Call local law enforcement to get information on any local drug take back programs
- Utilize local drug drop boxes
- Look for a pharmacy disposal program near you
- Note which disposal locations can take controlled substances as these require special licensure
While some medications are worth keeping, most expired pet medications should be properly disposed of. We want the best care for your pet, and using medications that have been appropriately prescribed and at their peak efficacy is best practice.