Don't Make These Dangerous Mistakes With Your Pet's Medicine

Jennifer Coates, DVM
Vet Reviewed
By Jennifer Coates, DVM on Jan. 26, 2015
Don't Make These Dangerous Mistakes With Your Pet's Medicine

Do you have a drawer or cabinet full of half-used, perhaps expired pet medications? We all know that we are supposed to dispose of “extra” medications, not keep them around “just in case,” but if you’re anything like me, frugality makes getting rid of something that might be useful in the future awfully hard.

The doctor in me must first say that you really shouldn’t give your pet any medication without first talking to your veterinarian. Of course, your vet will most likely say that he or she needs to see your pet before making a treatment recommendation, and a trip to the clinic is probably just what you were trying to avoid. Don’t blame your veterinarian though; he or she really is just trying to do right by your pet. Imagine how terrible everyone involved will feel if the treatment that was recommended without the benefit of an exam makes your pet’s condition worse rather than better.

The realist in me now has to admit that owners will continue to medicate their pets without the benefit of veterinary advice no matter what I say. The point of this post is to inform you of several instances when you must restrain yourself. The risks far outweigh any potential benefits.

Oral Antibiotics

What are you doing with “leftover” oral antibiotics anyway? Weren’t you told to give your pet the entire prescription? Anyway… do not be tempted to give your pet whatever is lying around when a new problem arises. Antibiotics have no efficacy against viruses, fungi, or any disease that isn’t caused, at least in part, by a bacterial infection. Also, a particular type of antibiotic is only active against a certain subset of bacteria. What are the chances that the antibiotic you have on hand is the ideal one for treating the infection your pet now has? Finally, expired antibiotics can lose their effectiveness. Giving your pet an antibiotic when it is not needed, the wrong type of antibiotic, or an expired antibiotic can result in antibiotic resistant infections that are very difficult to treat.


Avoid giving your pet any medication that contains a corticosteroid unless it has been prescribed by your veterinarian to treat your pet’s current medical problem. Corticosteroids suppress the immune system (among other things) and if your pet has an infection of any sort, they can make your pet’s condition worse rather than better. Prednisone, prednisolone, cortisone, hydrocortisone, dexamethasone, betamethasone, flumethasone, isoflupredone, methylprednisolone, and triamcinolone are all commonly prescribed corticosteroids. Check the medication label. If you see any of these listed as an active ingredient (any other ingredients that end in “-one” are suspect also) do not give that medication to your pet. This applies to both oral and topically applied medications.

Eye Medications

Unless your pet has a chronic eye condition and you are 100% sure you know that is what you are treating with previously prescribed medications, never put anything in your pet’s eyes without first consulting a veterinarian. Most eye injuries/disorders cause pets to have similar symptoms (redness, drainage, and squinting). Without an exam and a few simple tests, it is virtually impossible to know what is going on. Problems affecting the eyes have a disturbing tendency to go from bad to worse VERY quickly, particularly if they are treated with the wrong medication.

Dr. Jennifer Coates

Image: WilleeCole Photography / Shutterstock

Jennifer Coates, DVM
Vet Reviewed


Jennifer Coates, DVM


Dr. Jennifer Coates is an accomplished veterinarian, writer, editor, and consultant with years of experience in the fields of veterinary...

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