Human vs. Pet Medications: What’s the Difference?

The love we feel for our pets is priceless. Unfortunately, that’s not the case when it comes to their health. It can be very ruff for pet owners when it comes to pet expenses, including prescription medications. In 2020, a paws-itively huge amount—around $99 billion—was spent on pets in the U.S. While that includes all types of expenses, drug treatments for animals can really rack up the bill. 

If this sounds fur-miliar to you, you’re not alone. While Honeybee Health is primarily a pharmacy for humans, many of our patients are pets as well. That’s because human medications can often be prescribed for pets too. Shopping for pet meds on a website like Honeybee Health is a great way for you to bring down your bill. 

Below, our pharmacists have put together an FAQ on human medications versus pet medications with the help of some veterinarians. 

What’s the difference between human meds and pet meds? 

Both medications for humans and pets must go through a rigorous testing and reviewal process in order to earn approval from the FDA. However, there are significantly fewer medications made specifically for pets in mind, whereas there are countless medications designed for humans. 

In 1944, Congress made it legal for veterinarians to prescribe FDA-approved human drugs for animals even though that drug is not specifically designed for them. This is called the “off-label” use of the medication. For example, levetiracetam (Keppra) is a common prescription medication used to treat epilepsy in adults and children. However, it can be used for the same purpose in dogs. 

So it’s really true? I can give Mr. Fluffy human meds? 

Yes! However, there are some disclaimers. You should never give human medications to your pet without medical guidance. Dosing often has to change when giving medication to an animal, especially based on their weight and size.

According to Dr. Randy Aronson, a veterinary advisor, “One has to be extremely careful and have a strong recommendation by your veterinarian.”

That’s because not every human medication is safe for pets. For example, popular over-the-counter painkillers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Motrin) can either cause severe damage or even death in cats and dogs. 

What are some examples of human meds used for animals?

Human medications can be used to treat a long list of conditions in pets, including infections, stomach upset, allergies, inflammation, pain, and hypertension. According to Amber LaRock, a licensed vet tech and veterinary consultant, some of the most common pet meds are compiled in the chart below: 

The above are all safe and trusted by vets for use in pets, says LaRock. As you can see, many of these drugs are used to treat the same medical problems in both humans and pets.

Why would my vet choose to prescribe a human med instead of a pet med? 

There are a variety of factors that can contribute, but the price is often the main one. Price is another big contributor. According to veterinarian Claudine Sievert, “Pet medications are usually more expensive because of how rare they are.” Veterinarians might also prescribe human medications when pet-specific medications are on backorder or if there isn’t a pet-specific medication available at all, explains veterinary advisor Dr. Choczynski. 

So if I can give Mr. Fuzzy human meds, does that mean I (a human) can take Mr. Fuzzy’s meds? 

No! While human medications can sometimes be used for animals, animal medications should never be used by humans. 

Can I order my pet’s medications at Honeybee Health? 

Yes, you can! As of right now, Honeybee Health fills prescriptions for pets as long as the medication is a human medication that our pharmacy carries. You can search for your pet’s medication at www.honeybeehealth.com. If you don’t see the quantity or strength you need, don’t hesitate to reach out to our support team for help. 

Once you place an order, just make sure to specify that this medication is for your pet, not for you. 

You can watch the video below to hear from one of our customers, who ordered her dog’s anti-seizure medications at Honeybee Health. 

If you have any other questions about your pet’s medications, our pharmacists are fur-ever here to help you out!

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