Feature Archive

Pet Pill Warning!

Dr. Dolittle Drug Plan

By Charles Downey
WebMD Feature

Reviewed By Michael Smith

Driven by the high cost of healthcare, more people are treating themselves with veterinary drugs untested on humans.

Oct. 22, 2001 -- After Cheryl Burnett's dentist treated her infected tooth with penicillin, Burnett, who owns a pet store in Irwin Lake, Calif., got an idea. The next time a tooth acted up, she bypassed her dentist and took penicillin intended for fish.

"Because I had been prescribed penicillin in the past, I figured it was OK," Burnett says.

Burnett isn't alone. While farmers have been taking horse pills and rubbing udder-softening lotion on their callused hands for years, city dwellers too have begun visiting their local pet and feed stores -- or logging onto the Internet -- to buy medications meant for animals and save some money in the process.

In fact, the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association reports that annual sales of all pet products have jumped 35% in the last five years -- a figure they say is well above the needs of the animal population.

But while this may be good news for the makers of veterinary medications, experts are becoming concerned. Using drugs intended for animals, they say, can lead to serious consequences.