Drugs for pets have their place in a vet’s toolbox

Alabama Living Magazine

Are all drugs bad? The answer is neither a simple “bad” nor “harmful.” Pharmaceuticals are important tools in the veterinary toolbox. 

We get quite a few clients who are suspicious, distrustful, skeptical, and anxious about giving their pets pharmaceutical medications. For example, we had a client who came to see us from an hour and a half away because her local vet gave her “too much” antibiotics for a hot spot on her dog. We have also gotten a few texts inquiring about our opinions on the “dirty” pharmaceutical industries.

For nervous pets, we recommend taking some premedications home before the vet visit, or any stressful procedures like blood draw. While most clients are open to this suggestion, some reject sedatives and prefer to proceed without them. Additionally, a lot of anxious dogs do not get treated because owners are reluctant to give antipsychotic drugs, either because they fear a personality change in the pet or that the pet will be sleepy all the time. 

So what do we do? It is an ongoing issue for us, as quite a few clients come to us because we are “holistic.” Many of these folks come to us from hours away. We cannot just tell them that “this is the way we do things, take it or leave it.” They deserve better. They deserve to be heard.

The whole situation is complicated. In the case of the dog with the hot spot, the antibiotics prescribed were within the recommended dose range for those antibiotics, though it was at the higher end. I know of some professors who believe that some skin infections do not get resolved because we do not give antibiotics at high enough dosage for a long enough time. If trained by this professor, the vet was doing right by what they believed. Nothing wrong at all within the scope of proper medicine. 

I do understand the general discomfort about pharmaceuticals after the opioid crisis (where both the pharmaceutical industry and the prescriber have played less-than-ethical roles). Another glaring example is Vioxx, a painkiller made by Merck Pharmaceuticals for about six years in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Merck withdrew the drug in 2004 and paid billions to end thousands of lawsuits by patients who alleged the drug caused heart attacks and strokes.

But on the other hand, I am in awe of the human ingenuity in creating these magical chemicals (medications) that can do miraculous things. I tell clients (tongue in cheek), I love drugs! There is beautiful chemistry behind them. I also love herbs, acupuncture, and so on and so forth.

So, when should we use “drugs” versus herbs, chiropractic, acupuncture, or reiki? This is not an easy call! Ultimately it is a simple matter of checks and balances. In a 14-year-old dog, I would worry a whole lot less about the long-term side effects of pain medications versus the quality of life. In the case of a 3-year-old dog, I would like to seek other ways to help. 

As vets, we are like all others with our strong opinions. But as professionals, we are also aware of your value to our business, and we are willing to sit down and talk to you. Find a vet near you who will listen to you.  Sometimes you may have to look around to find the right veterinarian for you; this is no different for your personal physician.

After all, it is your pet and we are here to help you. It is our job to discuss the possibilities and let you make the final decision. Find a vet who will suit you. 

On a related note: Ask Dr. Google as many questions as you want. I like to see a client who has spent a good bit of time researching and learning about their pet’s health. Honestly, Dr. Google knows way more than I will ever know. This Dr. G has access to pretty much all of human knowledge, and none of us will ever come close. However, where we can shine will be to add wisdom to the knowledge. 

I see a good bit of chronic cases where I don’t expect to “cure” them, but I offer clients that I can go on this journey with them and do my best without causing any harm. We all need to walk together and that’s the best that we all can do!

Goutam Mukherjee, DVM, MS, Ph.D. (Dr. G) has been a veterinarian for more than 30 years. He owns High Falls Holistic Veterinary Care near Geraldine, Alabama. To suggest topics for future discussions, email him at contact@alabamaliving.coop


Get The Latest Updates

Subscribe To Our Monthly Newsletter

Get a sneak preview of each month’s magazine when you sign up! 


While You're Here

Related Posts


Never Miss A Story

Get our Weekly recap with the latest news, articles and resources.
Cookie policy
We use our own and third party cookies to allow us to understand how the site is used and to support our marketing campaigns.

Sign up for our e-newsletter

for the latest articles, news, events, announcements and alerts from Alabama Living