When you live with a cavalier King Charles spaniel, you know that at some point, you are going to be medicating your dog to manage congestive heart failure from mitral valve disease. That day has come for me and Harper, my 9-yearold cavalier.
I took her to the veterinary ER last month because she was showing classic signs of heart failure: restlessness, rapid respiration and coughing. I had been chalking the coughing up to the grass that she loves to eat, but combined with the other two signs, I knew it wasn’t something to ignore. Harper’s cardiologist wasn’t able to see her right away, but based on chest X-rays and clinical signs, she prescribed three medications to help control Harper’s symptoms until she could be examined. One of them is a diuretic.
We’ve been through this before, so we knew what to expect. The diuretic removes excess salt and fluid from Harper’s body. That means she drinks more water and needs to urinate more frequently. No more asking her to wait if I’m busy when she comes to let me know she wants to go out. We get up and go right away.
No matter what disease your dog or cat is facing, there are lots of great drugs out there that can help. Here’s what you should know about ensuring that you and your pet get the best results.
¦ Ask about side effects. Most drugs have them. Your pet may not experience side effects, but you should know what to look for. Common side effects of various types of medication include vomiting and diarrhea, stomach ulcers, lethargy, or liver or kidney damage. The potential for liver or kidney damage is why your veterinarian may require your pet to have blood work done a week or so after starting the medication or before refilling the prescription. Call your veterinarian right away if you suspect your pet is having a reaction to medication.
¦ Ask for a copy of the prescription. You may be able to purchase medication for less at big box stores such as Target or Costco. They can leverage their purchasing power to get lower prices, something your vet may be unable to do. Getting a medication direct from your veterinarian can be more convenient, though, and may be worth the price difference to you.
¦ Ask about compounding. If your pet is difficult to medicate because the pills don’t come in small sizes, a compounding pharmacy can formulate the drug in a different way, such as a chicken-flavored liquid or a cheese-flavored chewable.
¦ Ask online pharmacies if they are accredited by the National Association Boards of Pharmacy Top-Level Domain program or, for compounding pharmacies, the Pharmacy Compounding Accreditation Board. The American Veterinary Medical Association notes that medications that are packaged or shipped improperly may be ineffective.
¦ Ask if the medication should be given with food or on an empty stomach. It can make a difference in the effectiveness.
¦ Ask when to start the medication. Your pet may have already gotten a dose at the veterinary hospital and might not need more until the next day.
¦ Ask how much leeway there is in timing the doses. If a medication needs to be given every 12 hours, but your schedule is variable, it’s good to know if your pet can get the drug a little early or a little late.
¦ Ask what to do if your pet misses a dose. Usually it’s not advisable to double up on a dose, but only your veterinarian knows for sure. ¦