a warning against giving pets expired medication

Dog looking at open bottle of expired medication
Posted by Dr. Kim Smyth on Mar 04 2011

We’ve all been there before. You’re feeling a little under the weather, and all you have left is some medicine that is a few months past due. While you may have considered popping those pills, when it comes to pets and expired medications, drugs are better off disposed.

All medications have expiration dates. The expiration date for a drug is defined by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as the time at which 10% of the active pharmaceutical ingredient has decomposed. Drug companies use this FDA regulation to set their expiration date for each specific drug. Beyond that date, there is no guarantee of the full potency and safety of the drug.

Is it OK to give my pet expired medication?

If your pet is prescribed an antibiotic, you should give the entire course of medication, even if your pet appears to be feeling better. Therefore, you would have no leftover medication. But some medications, like sedatives and pain medications, can be given on an as needed basis. You should pay particular attention to the expiration date on these drugs as the prescription has a tendency to last longer. Giving expired medication could lead to inadequate results.

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Other medications to keep an eye on include:

Compounded medications. Some medications in pill form can be compounded into a flavored liquid to make them easier to administer (especially to cats). When medications are compounded, their expiration date is generally much shorter.

Nitroglycerin. If your pet has a heart condition that requires the use of nitroglycerin, be very cognizant of the expiration date. Using nitroglycerin that may not have full potency is dangerous to your pet.

Insulin. If your pet has diabetes, you know how important potent insulin is to his well-being. Insulin can rapidly lose its effectiveness after the expiration date, leading to uncontrolled diabetes. While Petplan pet insurance can help control the costs of treating diabetes, you want to do everything in your power to keep your diabetic pet healthy, and that includes keeping an eye on his insulin.

Liquid antibiotics. In general, liquid antibiotics are refrigerated, and sometimes a little bottle of medication can get lost in a sea of groceries. If your pet has been prescribed a liquid antibiotic, it’s best just to throw the leftovers away.

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