Do Expiration Dates on Pet Medications Matter?

veterinarianLet’s face it, our medicine cabinets and bathroom shelves likely have an array of old medications, prescriptions, ointments, and other expired health items. The question is whether you still use them or not.

The same quandary is faced when you look at your pet’s old medications. Do expiration dates on pet medications really matter? Are they still effective? Is it safe? To clear up the confusion around this issue, the team at Berks Animal Emergency and Referral Center is here to explain expiration dates on pet medications and the risks.

The Importance of Expiration Dates on Pet Medications

Each over-the-counter and prescribed medication contains a date that lets the consumer know when the product is no longer effective. This date is determined at the time of manufacturing and depends on the type and form (liquid vs. pill) of medication, as well as storage requirements.

Like human medications, these dates are important because many drugs lose their efficacy over time. Some actually change chemically and can become harmful. In addition, storing medication properly can influence how effective the product remains. For example, if a medicine requires refrigeration, it’s because it can lose potency if left out.

Following the exact instructions on the label is critical to treating your pet and ensuring the safety of the prescription being used.

Should You Ever Use Leftover Medications?

If the expiration date is determined by the pharmaceutical company, it should be followed. In general, using medications randomly without veterinary oversight can be harmful. However, in certain cases, some expiration dates set by our hospital may be flexible. Always ask us first to determine if the medication is going to be effective based on the problem being treated.

Ultimately, your veterinarian is the best person to decide whether a medication is ok to use.

What to Do with Expired Medications

Because medications can’t be flushed down the toilet or drain (water facilities can’t effectively screen them out during the sanitation process), what should people do with old meds? Simply throwing them away can be dangerous, so here are a few environmentally friendly and safe options:

  • Use Dispose My Meds to look up a drug take-back location.
  • Ask your local pharmacy if they have a take-back container on site.
  • Contact your local environmental authorities.
  • Contact the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) for instructions on how to dispose of leftover drugs.

If you’d like more information about expiration dates on pet medications, please don’t hesitate to call your Shillington vet. We’re always happy to help!