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Read Your Dog’s Medicine Label Carefully

Read Your Dog's Medicine Label Carefully

The last time my senior dog, Otto, had a wellness examination, our veterinarian recommended that I start giving him a medication that treats arthritis pain – at least on the days when he exercises more than usual, like when I take him on off-leash hikes. She recommended a newish drug, Galliprant, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that works with a slightly different mechanism than most NSAIDs prescribed for dogs, and is supposed to have less of an impact on dogs’ kidneys and livers. I ended up taking home a bottle that contained 30 chewable tablets of the medication.

I’ve been giving the medication to Otto occasionally, on days when we’ve taken a hike, or when he seemed particularly stiff or gimpy in the morning. This has been happening more frequently with the cold weather, and I was down to just a few tablets, so I picked up the bottle the other day to call in a refill.

As I waited on the phone for the veterinary receptionist to help me, listening to the clinic’s “hold” music, bottle of medication in my hand, I idly scanned the label, looking to identify the prescription number. To my horror, I saw this:

“Give on Empty Stomach.”

I have been giving the medication to Otto in the morning, with his breakfast – despite a yellow banner on the label that said to give the medicine to him without food.

I don’t know when or why I started giving him the medication with food. Did I not listen to my vet’s instructions? Was I distracted when we were discussing the medication? All I remember hearing is “one tablet given once daily.” Why didn’t I review the label instructions before I gave him any? How could I not notice the yellow label?!

Fortunately, as it turns out, this particular instruction wasn’t critical. When the receptionist came on the line, I told her I was looking for a refill but also wished to speak to the veterinarian briefly about the “empty stomach” instruction. When the doctor became available, she reassured me that the medication could be given either way – but that in her personal experience, she thought it was more effective given on an empty stomach. As long as it was working for Otto, she wasn’t concerned.

Still feeling like a bad dog mom and not to be mollified that easily, I pulled up the drug’s website, which states pretty clearly that it doesn’t matter whether the drug is given with food or not. So now I feel better.

But the issue scared me enough to pass along this advice. Take this opportunity to check the label of any medications your dog receives, right now! Check the dosage and number of pills, the number of times a day your dog is supposed to receive them, and the expiration date (if applicable) of any medication he receives only “as needed.”

Still troubled about my (as it turns out, harmless) screwup with Otto’s medication, I mentioned my error to a couple of friends – and one admitted she once, a few years before, dosed her dog with half of the medication that the label called for, at least half-way through the bottle. It was a two-week prescription, and only when it seemed like the bottle wouldn’t be empty in a week’s time did she examine the label more carefully. The dog was supposed to get two capsules, twice a day, and she had been giving only one capsule twice a day. She admitted her error to her vet, who told her to come and pick up more of the medication, so the dog could receive the full dose for the entire recommended period, as a half dose wasn’t likely to be effective.

Learn from our mistakes! Check those labels!

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