Animal Hospital Pharmacy: Understanding What's in Your Pet's Medicine

5 min read


Strength, Dose and Dosage


The strength of a medication is the concentration or weight of the substance. For example, if a dog is prescribed an antibiotic, s/he may be given a 50mg (50 one-thousandths of a gram) strength tablet. Medication may also come in other strengths, such as 100mg, 200 mg, 400mg, etc.


The dose, meanwhile, is the amount of the medication that an individual should take at one time. For an antibiotic the dose might be 8mg per pound of body weight and for another antibiotic the dose might be 25mg per pound.


Finally, the amount of the medication prescribed over a specific period is referred to as the dosage. If, for example, your veterinarian tells you to give your dog two capsules at a time and repeat at eight-hour intervals until all the medication is gone, that amount is the dosage. (And yes, the time interval will vary depending on the type and strength of the medication.)


Adverse Reactions to Medication


An example of the imperfect world we face in veterinary medicine can be seen when a dog (or cat) experiences a reaction to a vaccination. On occasion, a potentially serious reaction can occur shortly after receiving an inoculation. The patient’s blood pressure drops, heart rate slows and the patient can loose consciousness. These instances may even require drastic measures to save the patient's life. (I have seen this happen 3 times in 27 years of vaccinating dozens of dogs and cats on a daily basis.)


There are those who will flatly state that vaccinations are "bad" for dogs and cats, not just because they can cause serious reactions but they also believe that the vaccines cause future chronic ailments. I wonder how many cases of Canine (and Feline) Distemper, or Canine Hepatitis and Parvovirus I would have seen, and how many dogs (and cats) would have died from these preventable diseases if I wished for a perfect world and didn’t vaccinate all those pets for fear of the occasional imperfection.


The holistic community will also differ with some of this information. They have their reasons for believing what they do and we all should keep an open mind when it comes to non-traditional ways to medicate ourselves and our pets. However, historical facts and unemotional data have proven beyond any reasonable argument that some drugs and medications have very powerful health enhancing effects.


On the other hand, if you are looking for a perfect world where everything is predictable and 100% safe and effective, you won’t find that perfection in the pharmacy. Then again, you won't find that anywhere.


Image: David King / via Flickr