Home Medical Care: drug information


Drugs are identified by their formal chemical name, their generic name, and their brand (proprietary) name. The generic name is usually simpler and easier to remember than the formal chemical name. For example, acetylsalicylic acid is the formal chemical name for the drug with the generic name, aspirin. If your veterinarian needs to write a prescription, request that he or she uses the generic drug name rather than the brand name, if possible. This allows the pharmacist to give you the same drug usually for less money than the brand-name drug would cost. However, keep in mind that some generic drugs have been shown to be badly formulated and it is not always possible to make a successful substitution.

In general, veterinary drugs are the same as human drugs, but less expensive when they are sold under a veterinary label. However, many veterinarians dispense the drugs you need instead of writing prescriptions for you to take to a pharmacy. Although veterinary hospitals make a profit from this practice, for the most part dispensing needed medication this way is a convenience for you and may be less expensive than purchasing the equivalent medicine at a drugstore. If you would like to comparison shop, ask your veterinarian for a written prescription so that you can take it to several pharmacies.

In some cases there are no equivalent human drugs or appropriate dosage sizes available and you must purchase the drug in the veterinary clinic. Some companies sell drugs directly to people who are not veterinarians. In some cases the drugs are the same ones veterinarians use. In other cases, however, they are less effective or more likely to be toxic than the drugs a veterinarian would choose. I believe that many of the companies that sell these drugs to the public are interested primarily in profits, not animal health. They usually make few attempts to be sure the drugs are used properly and sometimes fail to warn of possible side effects. Try to avoid such drugs unless recommended by a veterinarian you trust.

All drugs dispensed by a pharmacist or veterinarian should be labeled with the generic or brand name, expiration date, concentration, and clear directions for use. This avoids misunderstanding in treatment and helps others who may treat the case later. Since drugs are helpers, not magic potions, your veterinarian should not be secretive about what is being dispensed. Neither should you regard drugs as universal panaceas to be dispensed and used without caution.

Caution is particularly important when prescribing medication for cats because they have many idiosyncracies of metabolism that may cause them to react unfavorably to many drugs considered ordinary for use in people or in dogs. Follow your veterinarian’s directions for prescription use carefully, and do not use any drug unless it has been recommended by a veterinarian or other reputable source for use in your cat. Also keep in mind that drugs are changing all the time.

Although some generic drugs safe for use in cats are mentioned in this book, better drugs may become available after this book is published. Your veterinarian is usually the best source for the most current information.