Pet owners trying to keep vet bills down are turning to cheaper human medications.

High doctor bills are causing some. Pet owners Turning to affordable human medicines to keep prices low.

The rising cost of veterinary drugs has led to calls for a national registry, with experts calling for vet services to be classified under a global standard, such as Dubai’s hospitality sector. Applies to.

The cost of medications used to treat pets can vary greatly, with some medications being almost identical to those used in humans but costing much more.

For example, Renitec, which is used to treat heart disease in humans, costs about Dh1.8 per pill but the animal version, Enalapril, costs almost three times as much.

But doctors warn that while some drugs used for humans are safe for pets, different dosages, pill sizes and animal metabolism can make others dangerous.

Treatment for animals is much more expensive than for humans, some of the costs are outrageous.

David Appleby, Founder of

In addition, some drugs, such as those used to treat animal seizures, are not available in the UAE due to licensing regulations.

This means that veterinarians often have to find alternative human drugs that are available at a higher cost, but may not be as effective.

Claire Champion, who owns five rescue pets — three dogs and two cats — said finding the right treatment for the animals can be a challenge.

Ms Champion, who is British and lives in Town Square, Dubai, said dealing with doctors’ bills was difficult.

“Until you know what medications a pet needs or what vets are good to use, there’s a lot of trial and error.

“We’ve tried a few veterinary clinics and have been misdiagnosed.

“If my dog ​​needs antihistamine pills, I can get them from the pharmacy for Dh20 in a pack of 40, not from the doctor for Dh5 a pill.

“That’s a lot of savings, but a lot of clinics don’t do that. You’re putting your trust in experts and veterinary consultation fees can vary greatly.

Another pet owner, who lives in Jumeirah Village Circle, said she was charged Dh582 for heart shots for her 14-year-old rescue dog, after she was previously prescribed the human drug Renitec. was

Renitec tablets cost about Dh1.8 each from the pharmacy, but the pet version, Enalapril, costs about Dh4.85 per pill.

Another example is Augmentin, an antibiotic used to treat bacterial infections in humans, and the animal version Clavamox.

Augmentin usually costs around $1.30 (Dh4) per pill, while Clavamox can cost around $3 (Dh12) per pill.

David Appleby, founder of Microchipped.aeA company that tracks lost pets and cares for the animal community, said expensive veterinary fees can also be a barrier to rehoming animals.

“A good vet will often give advice on what inexpensive drugs can be used from the pharmacy, but this is usually for minor complaints,” said Mr Appleby, who has helped rescue more than 150 cats. Dumped in the desert of Abu Dhabi. By pest controllers in October.

“With heart medication I will always follow the vet’s advice, but costs can vary greatly between different veterinary clinics.

“We believe that veterinary services should be graded under a global standard, as should hospitality.

“The price difference can be astronomical. Animals are much more expensive to treat than humans, some prices are outrageous.

Although not all veterinary drugs are more expensive than their human equivalents. Tetracycline is an antibiotic that prevents this phenomenon.

Drug pricing

Pet owners can expect to pay around $2 (Dh7) for one hundred 500mg Tetracycline capsules suitable for animals, while for human use, 100 capsules of the same dosage cost around $50 (Dh183) online. Is.

Anesthetics used in animals are also cheaper than in humans, Lidocaine for pets is usually significantly cheaper than the human alternative Xylocaine.

Although the UAE has no legislation that prevents the prescription of human medicines for animals, unlike in the US or the UK, doctors say they are often reluctant to dispense certain pet medicines.

Dr Sam Westhead from Amity Veterinary Clinic in Al Barsha, Dubai said, “We do not use human drugs in our practice as we have a policy that if there is a licensed veterinary drug we always use it. will.”

“Human medicines are often just a rough translation because there are different pill sizes and different formulations. Veterinary medicines are formulated to be palatable, the right size and the right shape for the animal.

“If there is a veterinary licensed product, you have to use it unless you have a very good reason to use a human drug.”

Some pharmaceutical companies have animal-specific divisions, producing drugs only for the veterinary industry.

However, because the market is small, the demand from the global human population is much lower than that, so it is less profitable.

This leads to higher costs for pet owners, and fewer treatment options for vets dealing with sick animals.

“Some veterinarians will prescribe humane medications for an animal as a cost-cutting exercise,” said Dr. Westhead.

For example there won’t be much difference between Enalapril and Renitec.

“There are some over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs that are very similar to what we use in veterinary medicine.

“But, during our training, it has been very clearly identified that there are risks and potential for toxicity.

“I can tackle a 1kg kitten one minute and a 60kg Great Dane the next.

“We have to be very precise with our diet and you can’t always get that with human medicine.”

The US Federal Drug Administration (FDA) approves animal drugs in the same way that it is approved for human drug use.

Meanwhile the Animal Medicinal Drug Use Clarification Act (AMDUCA) allows additional label use for veterinary “unmet animal needs.”

Toxic hazard

Dr. Hollis Stewart, a former veterinarian from the UAE who now works in the US, said there are specialized medical resources available for animals.

“There are only about 15 percent of diseases for which the FDA has approved veterinary drugs,” he said.

“These situations are called extra-label use, whereby doctors will decide when to use the human drug.

“Legally, we have to use veterinary drugs, but there are a lot of crossover antibiotics like amoxicillin and tetracycline, and a lot of human eye drugs are used for cats and dogs.”

Most drugs in veterinary medicine are dosed according to the animal’s weight, which is rarely the case in human care.

Also, not all drugs metabolize in animals the same way they do in humans.

What works in one animal may be toxic in another, such as antiparasitic drugs used in cats and dogs that are toxic to turtles and tortoises.

And because of the way drug receptors work, doctors can give a horse more medicine than they would a rhinoceros, or a bird more than a dog.

Dr. Stewart said, “Although it is safe to use human drugs in animals under guidance, this is only done when there are no other options, or if the disease is not common enough to warrant the use of specific animal drugs. Go,” said Dr. Stewart.

“For animals we can use a lot of injections, like penicillin into the horse’s muscles, that we could never do in humans.

“The problem is that there is not enough research on different species, and how they respond.

“What we do know is that animals often respond better to chemotherapy drugs than humans, because cancer has a psychological component that animals are unaware of.

“Animals do better after radiation treatment, and are generally stronger and handle things better than humans.”

Updated: January 17, 2024, 3:15 AM

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