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Extreme times call for extreme measures. Here’s one way to manage the chaos.
If a major disaster occurs and the supply chain breaks down, many critical items will be difficult to find. Without the power grid and fundamental distribution systems, things like food and water will be hard to come by. That includes life-saving medications.
Many missionaries have found themselves challenged by the desperate need for medicines in third-world countries. Oftentimes, the only thing they have in their medicine chests is aspirin. That’s why some of them have turned to veterinary meds to treat infections and other serious conditions.
But be forewarned: Desperate times call for desperate measures. I do not recommend taking veterinary meds unless you’re in a post-disaster life-or-death scenario. Now that that’s out of the way, here are the facts:
Veterinary meds are required to be safe for human use.
It’s sad when you think about it, but even something as common as dog and cat food is required by the FDA to be safe for human consumption. It gets back to the dilemma of senior citizens forced to make a choice between medicine and food. If they have no alternative but to eat dog or cat food, it has to be safe to eat. A sad state of affairs for too many people.
The same rules apply to veterinary medicines, but there are some significant cautions you need to be aware of before assuming veterinary medicine is safe. Here are some key caveats:
Dosage – While many veterinary medications have similar names and characteristics like “Amoxicillin” and “Tetracycline,” their dosage can be significantly higher or lower based on the animal they are prescribed for. To put it simply, a horse weighs more than a goat and a recommended dosage for either will potentially be too high or low of a dosage for human use.
Expiration dates – All medicines expire at a certain time. The typical result is that they lose their efficacy or potency, and in some cases become toxic if not poisonous. Most antibiotics like amoxicillin simply become less effective, but there are some medicines that have a dark side. Tetracycline is the worst.
Tetracycline is a medication that was initially prescribed to treat various conditions including infections before the invention of penicillin. It is a medication that presents numerous side-effects even when prescribed by doctors, and it has a sinister side effect when it exceeds its expiration date. When Tetracycline expires, it becomes toxic. This is one example of why you need to be careful when dealing with prescription meds from veterinary sources. And you should probably avoid Tetracycline altogether.
A standard practice for preserving the shelf-life of anything from canned goods to medicines is to store them in a cool, dark place. Refrigeration is ideal, but if the power grid goes down, a root-cellar or basement will do.
So, what’s safe?
Let’s start with OTC. OTC is an acronym for “over-the-counter.” These are common medications like aspirin, ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and triple antibiotic ointments. Generic brands are a good value at any grocery store and are a better value when sourced from veterinary suppliers. Triple antibiotic ointment is a good example. A branded triple antibiotic ointment can cost up to $6 a tube at a pharmacy, but the same combination of antibiotic ingredients can be purchased from a veterinary source for 50 cents.
However, there are some significant cautions.
A good way to ensure you are considering the correct medicine and correct dosage is to refer to literature on the subject. A very good resource is Drugs.com. The site shows pictures and descriptions of most every medication prescribed by doctors. The pictures and the description correspond to veterinary meds, and this site allows you to make an apple to apple comparison to ensure you’re ordering the correct veterinary med. There’s an alphabetical navigation bar at the top of the page to make finding a specific medication easier.
Another excellent resource is the Physician’s Desk Reference. You should actively read and check these resources before purchasing or consuming any veterinary medicine. They should show you the direct correlation between a veterinary med and a human med.
Know your USP
A critical piece of information you’ll get from these resources is the importance of pill-shape, color, and code numbers on the pill. These are the same for veterinary meds and medicines prescribed by doctors for human use. It’s called the “USP Verified Pharmaceutical Ingredient Mark.” It was created so that a doctor in an emergency room could quickly and easily identify a veterinary medicine that may have been inadvertently ingested. While none of us want to end up in the emergency room, it’s good to know that big Pharma and doctors want consistency with veterinary and human meds.
Are International resources and Internet pharmacies safe?
The unfortunate answer is… maybe. More and more we’re hearing about people getting on the Internet and ordering prescriptions from Canada, Mexico, and other countries. The potential danger here is counterfeit meds. Unscrupulous suppliers have nothing to lose if they make a sugar pill look like a legitimate prescription med. They have nothing to lose because legal jurisdiction does not cross over to many countries. If you get ripped off, it’s your tough luck… or your life.
To make matters worse, pharmaceutical manufacturing standards can be inconsistent in some countries. The FDA estimates that most prescription drugs from Mexico are counterfeit.
What conditions can veterinary meds treat?
The primary benefit of veterinary medications is for the treatment of infections. Veterinary pharmaceuticals designed to treat infections are relatively benign if taken in the proper dosage and before the expiration date.
One category of prescription medications unavailable from veterinary catalogs is painkillers. These require a veterinarian’s prescription due to substance abuse issues.
Resources for Veterinary Medicines
Livestock and veterinarian catalogs and websites sell veterinary meds to ranchers, farmers, racetracks, and animal breeders. Fish farmers and large-scale aquariums also use these medicines. They will often describe the medicine in the context of its human counterpart. If it’s called amoxicillin it’s actually amoxicillin.
Cal-Vet Supply is one website that specializes in veterinary medications. There are also farm and feed stores that will often stock a range of veterinary meds. You can also do an Internet search on Google for veterinary medications.
Some names of veterinary medicines can be a bit disconcerting.
Trade names for veterinary medicines vary. You could see something as confusing as “Fish-mox,” or “Fish-cillin.” Here again, look at the pill, the shape, the color, and the code number. If they match a human prescribed counterpart found in the Physician’s Desk Reference, you’re seeing the real deal.
The big question.
How is it that Big-Pharma can produce prescription medicines that cost so much while mass-producing the same product for veterinary use? The simple answer is that people are insured, and animals are not. There have been some examples recently of Big-Pharma hiking the prices of medicines and smirking all the way. The answer is risk. If an animal goes down because of a prescription pharmaceutical, it’s a small loss to a pig farmer. If a person goes down, it’s a lawsuit and litigation.
There are also many conditions and medications that affect humans that simply don’t exist for animals. This includes conditions like depression, high blood-pressure, high cholesterol levels, and other afflictions that are not of concern for animals bred to slaughter or with relatively short lifetimes. As a result, the priority for veterinary medicines is infections.
So why even think about this as an option?
It’s all about infection caused by bacteria. Bacterial infections can be insidious and lethal and totally overwhelm our immune systems if not treated with an antibiotic. The majority of the soldiers who died during the Civil War did not die from fatal wounds but the infections they got from the wounds. In desperate times, the need for antibiotics will always be great.
The common medicines for treating infections that are available from veterinary resources include:
- Penicillin — This traditional pharmaceutical is for the treatment of many infections caused by bacteria leading to pneumonia, ear infections, septicemia or sepsis, urinary tract infections, meningitis, intra-abdominal infection, sexually transmitted disease, respiratory infections, ear, nose and throat infections, plus skin and soft tissue infections. Veterinary equivalents include 250mg Fish Pen and 500mg Fish Pen Forte.
- Amoxicillin — This is a penicillin antibiotic variation. It is typically prescribed for infections caused by bacteria including salmonella, ear infections, bladder infections, pneumonia, STD’s and E. coli. Veterinary equivalents include 250mg Fish Mox (children) and 500mg Fish Mox Forte (adults).
- Ciprofloxacin, or Cipro — This antibiotic is in from a medicinal group called “fluoroquinolones.” It is often used as a broad-spectrum antibiotic that fights many infections and is even used to prevent or slow anthrax after exposure. Veterinary equivalent: 500mg Fish Flox Forte.
- Cephalexin, or Keflex — This is often used to treat urinary tract infections, upper respiratory and nasal infections, tooth and mouth infections, ear infections, and skin infections. Veterinary Equivalent: 250mg Fish Flex and 500mg Fish Flex Forte
Do your homework!
You can’t and should not go blindly into buying veterinary meds without a good handle on what and why you are buying them. Consult the links in this article and get knowledgeable about what you’re getting into. These are meds for desperate times and you don’t want to make those times worse because you made a wrong decision.