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Poll: Have You Suspected Clients of Obtaining Opioids for Personal Use?

Patricia Wuest Editorial Director, NAVC

Poll: Have You Suspected Clients of Obtaining Opioids for Personal Use?
Learn to pick up on the red flags of pet owners who may be seeking drugs for themselves rather than relief for their animals. Photo Credit: Shutterstock
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We polled Today’s Veterinary Practice’s Facebook audience in May and asked: “Have you ever suspected a pet parent of obtaining opioids for his or her pet so he or she can use the painkillers themselves?” Of the 98 respondents, 62% answered “yes” and 38% said “no.” One respondent commented, “No, but I wouldn’t be shocked.”

A recent warning from the Food and Drug Administration alerted veterinarians to the problem and urged them to be cautious when prescribing opioids. The FDA says veterinarians must be on the alert for people who may be using their pets to gain access to the drugs.

“We recognize that opioids and other pain medications have a legitimate and important role in treating pain in animals – just as they do for people,” FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, said in a statement.

Dr. Fitzgerald said he can pick up on the red flags of pet owners who may be seeking drugs for themselves rather than relief for their animals.

“They come in and you’ve never seen them before. They know the names of the drugs that they want,” Fitzgerald said. “Often times they want to know the amount, a large amount. More than you would use.”

Dr. Kathy Brown said she has also seen people bring their pets in, claiming the animal is in pain with no evidence of any real problem. Brown owns Brentood Animal Hospital on Federal Blvd. in Denver.

“If you’re addicted, you don’t care what you have to do to get it,” Brown said.

Dr. Brown said she is now reluctant to prescribe pain patches to pets after hearing about addicts stealing them to get a fix.

“I know of more than one case where they jump over the fence and rip it off the animal and take it for themselves,” Brown said.

One woman in Kentucky admitted to police in 2012 she intentionally cut her dog multiple times to get the opioid Tramadol.

“I feel like complete and total s—t for doing that,” Heather Pereira said during an interview with police, conducted after a suspicious veterinarian’s office turned her in.

What To Do When You Suspect Abuse

If you suspect a pet owner of abusing his or her animal to gain access to opioids — of for any other reason — contact proper animal welfare agency and your local authorities to report animal cruelty or abuse cases. You can also contact the Animal Rescue Team of the Humane Society of the United States.

Learn More

Read Animal Cruelty: Your Role in Identifying Abuse.

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