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Mistakes With Pet Prescriptions Can Prove Deadly

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) — We’ve all heard stories of someone being prescribed the wrong medicine, or the wrong dose, with devastating consequences.

Now, a warning has been issued for pet owners. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said these deadly mistakes are also being made with pet prescriptions.

Sarah Schuck said she was heartbroken over the death of her beloved dog, “Rafter.” The 8-year-old lab died because of a prescription drug error.

“It was really hard,” she said.

Schuck said the label on Rafter’s prescription mistakenly said to give him two and a quarter teaspoons of medication, when it should have read 2.25 CCs, which is a much smaller dose.

“It was a tough realization,” she said.

Surprisingly, the deadly mistake was not an isolated case. The FDA has issued a warning about an increase in pet prescription mistakes.

Investigators discovered errors stemming from simple issues, including unclear medical abbreviations on vet prescriptions, drugs with similar names and packaging, and simple penmanship errors — all leading to mistakes where the pet paid.

“The consequences can be completely devastating,” veterinarian Howard Silberman said.

Silberman said he takes extreme prescription precautions at his veterinary practice. He types all medications and dosages into a computer, allows only vets or vet techs to fill prescriptions, and posts pet pictures onto prescription labels so there are no mix-ups.

“We do a tremendous amount to make sure that those things don’t happen,” Silberman said.

Many pet owners get pet prescriptions filled at human pharmacies, which is also contributing to the confusion.

“Currently, most of the pharmacy curriculums don’t touch upon vet medicine,” said Carmen Catizone of the National Association Boards of Pharmacy.

Experts said, ultimately, it’s up to pet owners to provide that extra layer of protection. The American Veterinary Medical Association said pet owners should make sure the pharmacist speaks directly to their vets about all prescriptions, and should always verify the name and dosage of their pets’ drugs with their vets themselves.

“Don’t be afraid to ask questions,” Schuck said.

Pharmacists aren’t alone. FDA investigators also found pet owners share some of the blame by misinterpreting labels and accidentally giving pets human drugs.

The FDA has more tips on its Web site on how to prevent pet medication errors and how to report mistakes.

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