BUFFALO, N.Y. – Doctors who treat humans aren’t the only medical professionals feeling the effects of the opioid and heroin crisis.
Veterinarians are starting to feel impacts in how they treat pets as well.
"We can't get hydromorphone. It's very hard to get a drug that we use for anesthesia on a regular basis,” said Dr. R. Reed Stevens of Ellicott Small Animal Hospital in Buffalo. “So we are finding other ways to safely and effectively use anesthesia.”
In a typical situation, a pet parent might be sent home with controlled substance painkillers for an animal that just had surgery. Now more than ever, Dr. Stevens says it’s important that he and other vets think responsibly for the whole family, and not just the pet, and he says it’s important to make sure a pet owner is aware of the risks associated with bringing those drugs home.
Dr. Stevens is also working to stay on top of that latest science so that he and his team are knowledgeable in new low-dose or opiate-free alternatives.
"There are reports of veterinarian hospitals being broke into to. We are very secure with our drugs, with our alarm systems, with our double lock boxes,” Dr. Stevens said, who also wants to make sure his staff and clients are safe, too.
Ellicott Small Animal Hospital keeps things locked tight, but that hasn't stopped a fake pet parent from trying to get a prescription.
Dr. Stevens said there was a case of someone who claimed to be traveling with their pet, and that the pet needed painkillers prescribed remotely.
"After further checking, and checking with other vets in the area, we found a very similar client with a very similar appearing dog with very similar signs also looking for such drugs,” Dr. Stevens said.
So what are safe pain management alternatives? Acupuncture, injections that reduce swelling, platelet-rich plasma injections, laser therapy, and stem cell therapy are all proven to help pets with pain. At-home adjustments, like raising the height of a food bowl, can also ease joint stress on an aging dog or cat.
Most importantly, Dr. Stevens says to call your veterinarian and discuss the many treatment options that are available. The worst thing you could do is try and treat your pet by yourself with a human drug that could hurt him or her.