Veterinarians are seeing an alarming trend across the country where people are purposely injuring their pets to get their hands on pain pills. It's even changing the way some Treasure Valley vet hospitals prescribe opioids for their patients.
"We certainly prescribe opioids every day for pets," WestVet Senior Medical Officer Dr. Jeff Brourman said. "We try to be very cautious with the amount of opioids we send home, and we try to be very careful about refills and how much is sent out the door."
Dr. Brourman says, just like in human care, opioids are extremely common ways to treat pain for pets, especially post-surgery.
"We use them to treat post-operatively, to manage abdominal pain or spinal pain," Dr. Brourman said.
The need is even greater for specialty or emergency clinics like WestVet because often times they see the most critically-ill or critically-injured animals.
Now, if a client calls asking for more pain medication for their pet, WestVet staff will request the animal come back in for a face-to-face exam to ensure the animal is truly still in pain and in need of additional pain management.
On top of monitoring drug-seeking behavior of their clients, veterinarians are also now dealing with a nationwide shortage of injectable opioids.
In July, Pfizer halted the distribution of all injectable opioids to all veterinary offices as a result of manufacturer shortages. The company is prioritizing distribution to human hospitals. Pfizer doesn't expect their shortage issues to be resolved until at least the second quarter of 2019, meaning veterinarians will have to continue using alternatives.
"We've had to really adapt to the different medications depending on what's available," Dr. Brourman said.