With additional training specific to animal species to prevent errors and avoid toxicities, pharmacists can apply their existing understanding of disease pathophysiology and pharmacology to competently provide non-human care.
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The Role of the Veterinary Pharmacist
Pharmacists are the only health care professionals legally allowed and expected by society to provide care for all species. Over 75% of community pharmacists encounter animal prescriptions in their routine practice, but fewer than 25% of pharmacy schools offer didactic curriculum on this topic, so many pharmacists and techs are deficient in this knowledge.
Additionally, the boom of pets in U.S. households during COVID has created a shortfall of veterinarians to provide timely and comprehensive care, presenting an opportunity for community pharmacists to expand services to the animal population with a modest amount of additional training. There is also the opportunity for pharmacists to specialize in this area and consider themselves veterinary pharmacists.
Job Description of a Veterinary Pharmacist
A veterinary pharmacist is a trained professional who specializes in the preparation, dispensing, and monitoring of medications used in animal health care. The role of a veterinary pharmacist involves working closely with veterinarians, animal owners, and other members of the animal health care team to ensure that animals receive appropriate and effective treatment.
The primary responsibility of a veterinary pharmacist is to dispense medications for animals, including both prescription and over-the-counter products. They must have a thorough understanding of pharmacology, dosage forms, and pharmaceutical calculations, as well as an understanding of the unique physiology and behavior of various animal species.
In addition to dispensing medications, a veterinary pharmacist also plays a critical role in monitoring the safety and efficacy of these products. They must keep accurate records of all medications dispensed and be able to identify and report adverse drug reactions and interactions.
A veterinary pharmacist may also be involved in the development of new drugs or the adaptation of human medications for use in animals. They must stay up-to-date on the latest research in veterinary pharmacology and be able to communicate this information to other members of the animal health care team.
How to become a veterinary pharmacist
Licensed pharmacists who are interested in specializing in companion animals often turn to additional veterinary pharmacy training to equip them to better serve these patients. Veterinary training can also benefit pharmacists looking to grow their pharmacies by helping them expand their services and thus customer base, thereby increasing revenue.
There are a number of programs that offer specialized training in veterinary pharmacy, including certificate programs, residency programs, and advanced degree programs. These programs typically cover topics such as animal anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, drug compounding, and disease management.
One option is to pursue a certificate program. Certificate programs are typically shorter in duration than degree programs and are designed to provide focused training in a specific area. Certificate programs in veterinary pharmacy may be offered online or in-person and can often be completed in a year or less.
Advanced degree programs in veterinary pharmacy, such as a Master of Science or a Doctor of Pharmacy degree, are also available. These programs offer more extensive training in veterinary pharmacy and may provide opportunities for research and specialization.
For those with a PharmD degree, another option for additional training in veterinary pharmacy is to complete a residency program. Residency programs in veterinary pharmacy typically last one to two years and provide hands-on training in a variety of areas, including animal care and medication management.
By pursuing additional training and seeking certification, pharmacists can become valuable members of the veterinary healthcare team.
Why veterinary pharmacy is important
Veterinary pharmacy is of utmost importance as it plays a critical role in ensuring the health and well-being of animals. Animals, much like humans, require medications to treat a wide range of health conditions, ranging from minor infections to chronic diseases. The medications used in animal healthcare must be safe, effective, and tailored to the specific needs of the animal being treated.
Having access to veterinary pharmacy is also convenient for human pet owners as it ensures that their pets receive the best possible care. A veterinary pharmacist has specialized training in the preparation, dispensing, and monitoring of medications used in animal healthcare, and they work closely with veterinarians and other members of the animal health care team to ensure that animals receive appropriate and effective treatment. This can help to improve the health and well-being of pets, providing peace of mind for their owners.
Making Medicine Work With Animal Patients
Many medications used in animal healthcare are not the same as those used in human medicine. Animals have unique physiology, metabolism, and behavior, which can affect the way medications are absorbed, distributed, and eliminated from their bodies. A veterinary pharmacist must have a thorough understanding of these factors to ensure that the medications used in animal healthcare are safe and effective, reducing the risk of adverse reactions and side effects.
Additionally, veterinary pharmacy is essential because it can help prevent the spread of diseases from animals to humans. Many infectious diseases that affect animals can also be transmitted to humans, and the medications used in animal healthcare can help prevent or control these diseases. By ensuring that animals receive appropriate treatment, veterinary pharmacy can play an important role in protecting public health.
Community Pharmacies as Alternatives to Chewy and Petmed
Community pharmacists are considered the most accessible health care practitioners. Their location within communities puts them in a unique position to meet an assortment of needs.
With veterinary pharmacy, this convenience and access for patients can extend to their pets. While some pet owners turn to companies like Chewy and Petmed to fill vet prescriptions, community pharmacies are a great alternative, particularly for people who already routinely visit their community pharmacy.
Here are some of the benefits of choosing a local community pharmacy for purchasing pet medications and supplies:
Local pharmacists can provide personalized service to help people choose the right medications and supplies for their pets. They can also answer any questions about dosage, side effects, and unexpected interactions.
Unlike online retailers, local pharmacies are likely located nearby, making it easy to pick up a pet’s medications and supplies without waiting for delivery.
Community pharmacies may offer competitive pricing on pet medications and supplies, as they can negotiate with suppliers to get the best prices.
If a pet requires a prescription medication, a community pharmacy can fill it on-site, saving pet owners the time and hassle of having to mail in a prescription to an online retailer.
Community pharmacies are a trusted source for medications and supplies, as they are licensed and regulated by the state board of pharmacy. This can give pet owners peace of mind when it comes to the safety and efficacy of the products they purchase for their pets.
Compounding Veterinary Pharmacy: Customizing Medications for Pets
Veterinary pharmacists who have received specialized training may also be involved in compounding veterinary medications. Compounding refers to the practice of creating customized medications for individual animals. These medications are made by combining or altering existing pharmaceutical ingredients to fit the specific needs of a pet.
Compounding veterinary pharmacy is an important field because not all animals are the same. Just like humans, each animal is unique and may require a personalized approach to medication. For example, a cat may have difficulty swallowing a tablet, and a dog may require a smaller dose of a medication due to its size. In these situations, compounding veterinary pharmacy can be a valuable solution.
Compounding veterinary pharmacists work closely with veterinarians to develop customized medications that are tailored to each animal’s needs. They take into account factors such as the animal’s weight, species, and medical history. They also consider the specific condition being treated and any allergies the animal may have.
Compounding veterinary pharmacy can involve a variety of different medications, including tablets, capsules, creams, ointments, and even flavored liquids. Compounded medications can also be used to treat a range of conditions, from arthritis and pain management to skin conditions and behavioral issues.
In addition to providing customized medications for individual animals, compounding veterinary pharmacy can also be useful for animals that require medications that are no longer commercially available. In these cases, compounding veterinary pharmacists can create a customized medication that contains the same active ingredient as the original medication.
Overall, compounding veterinary pharmacy is an important and valuable field that helps ensure that each animal receives the medication it needs to stay healthy and happy. By working closely with veterinarians and pet owners, compounding veterinary pharmacists play a critical role in providing personalized care for animals.
freeCE is Helping Pharmacists Fill Prescriptions and Provide Better Outcomes for Pets
Pharmacists are the only human-focused medical professionals also responsible for non-human species. With additional training specific to animal species to prevent errors and avoid toxicities, pharmacists can apply their existing understanding of disease pathophysiology and pharmacology to competently provide non-human care.
freeCE is proud to offer a specialty certificate to help pharmacists bridge the gap between veterinary medicine and the pharmacy.
Introducing: The Essentials of Veterinary Pharmacy Certificate
The Essentials of Veterinary Pharmacy Certificate will provide the community pharmacist and pharmacy technician with the fundamentals needed to accurately and safely fill prescriptions for companion animals (dogs, cats, horses) that they may encounter in daily practice.
Learners who complete this certificate program will be better able to:
- Recognize the team members involved in veterinary practice and common misunderstandings that may occur when veterinarians prescribe medications that will be filled at a community pharmacy.
- Identify federal laws and regulations that govern the use of medications in animals.
- Understand basic physical characteristics of companion dogs, cats, and horses and how their unique pharmacokinetic traits may impact medication use and misuse.
- Prevent toxicologic emergencies by better anticipating risks for accidental ingestion of substances dangerous to pets and helping to inform your clients (pet parents) of best safety practices.
- Avoid communication-related errors and those related to abbreviations that may lead to over or underdosage of prescribed active ingredients or toxicity from commonly used excipients.
- Employ appropriate drug information resources to provide confident counseling tips to veterinary clients and other members of the veterinary team.
Additional certificates will be available that will offer advanced clinical information related to therapeutics and medication selection for companion animals, as well as more detailed guidance for compounding for the veterinary patient.