Whether your dog or cat is taking an antibiotic for a week or two to fight off an infection or is on long-term medication for a chronic health condition, monitoring his medicine can help you catch any potential problems early. It can also help you ensure your pet is responding to treatment. Read on for helpful advice on how to keep an eye on your pet’s recovery.

Understanding Medication Monitoring

Keeping track of your pet’s medicine is an important way to make sure he’s on the way to being well. Often, the process begins with a review of your pet’s medical history with your veterinarian. It may also involve blood tests to ensure that the levels of a drug in your pet’s blood are high enough to be effective, but not high enough to cause problems. In addition, medication monitoring often includes regular visits to your veterinarian, who will examine your pet to determine whether the medicine is doing its job of helping your dog or cat feel better.

In many cases, your pet takes medication for a short time to heal an infection, injury, or other problem. However, if he suffers from health issues like heart disease, allergies, arthritis, or epilepsy, you may need to give him medicine every day for months or years. Over time, the way your pet’s body tolerates his medicine may change, which means your veterinarian has to adjust the dose or switch to another medication. By monitoring your pet closely, your veterinarian can use that information to make sure that your pet continues to do well on any medication.

Most medications pose minimal problems when used correctly, but all medicines can have unwanted side effects. If you notice any unusual reaction to a medicine, you should alert your veterinarian immediately.

How Is Medication Monitoring Performed?

This important process begins before you leave your veterinarian’s office with a new prescription. Your pet’s doctor should tell you what the medicine is, what it’s for, and how to administer it, as well as a list of potential side effects you might expect. For example, if your pet is prescribed insulin for diabetes, your veterinarian will explain how to give it and how often, any symptoms or behavior that might indicate a problem, and what to do if you do experience any worrisome side effects. In addition to the advice your veterinarian offers, you should also read the medication label, instructions that come with the medicine, product inserts (if available), and brochures or handouts from your veterinarian.

Sometimes medication monitoring involves blood tests. Your veterinarian may want to test your pet’s blood to find out information about your pet’s overall health and how well certain organs, like the liver and kidneys, are functioning before prescribing certain medications. Sometimes, medicine can change the results of these tests over time, so your veterinarian may recommend repeating these tests periodically to help ensure that your pet is tolerating the medicine.

Your pet’s doctor may also want to check blood levels of specific medications. For example, if your pet is receiving phenobarbital—a medication used to control epilepsy—your veterinarian may recommend having the phenobarbital blood levels checked every so often to make sure the medicine is still effective at the current dosage, but not high enough to increase the risk of side effects.

In addition to tests and examinations your veterinarian performs, you’ll need to monitor your pet at home for drug-related side effects. Being aware of how your pet normally reacts to a medication can help you quickly recognize when something is wrong.

And if you’re giving your pet more than one medication, the drugs may interfere with each other, causing a drug interaction. Making sure that your veterinarian knows about all the medications you give your pet can help prevent drug interactions. Some veterinary practices ask you to fill out a checklist when you bring your pet in for a physical exam or surgery. Often, this list will ask for the names and types of medications your pet is currently receiving. It is very important to list all your pet’s medications, including vitamins, supplements, and natural products. This is especially true if you visit more than one veterinarian because the doctors don’t always have access to each other’s information. Consider bringing your pet’s medications and supplements with you to the office so you don’t forget to list anything. 

If you suspect your pet is having a reaction to a medication, contact your veterinarian immediately for advice. 

This article has been reviewed by a Veterinarian.