Even Pets Are Affected By The Opioid Crisis

By Beth Leipholtz 05/01/18

The DEA's decision to decrease opioid manufacturing is affecting the way veterinarians are able to treat animals.

dog snuggled in bed

Despite the fact that much of the opioid crisis coverage focuses on humans, they aren’t the only ones being affected. As of late, the crisis has also been affecting pets. 

According to Fox News, veterinarians are having a difficult time finding medications for animals as a result of government efforts to regulate opioids. 

Because the government is working to limit the quantity of opioids that are prescribed and distributed, there is a shortage of injectable morphine, hydromorphone and fentanyl, Fox reports.

These medications are often used for sedation in animals such as cats and dogs. 

“The shortage is making it challenging to provide adequate anesthesia for all of our patients,” Dr. Giacomo Gianotti, head of anesthesia at the Veterinary Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, told Fox News. “We anesthetize roughly 20 to 30 cases a day. We are one of the largest clinics in the nation and worry—will there [be] enough opioids?” 

Other veterinarians are also seeing the effects of the shortage.

According to Jennifer Jones, owner of Animedic and One Love Veterinary Clinics in Philadelphia, veterinarians have had to resort to medications they would not normally use or administer their normal medications in a different manner.

“It’s frustrating,” Jones told Fox. “We use established protocol put forth by the American Animal Hospital Association, so when we have to deviate from those [guidelines] I don’t want to have to second guess the drug’s effects.” 

The shortage in medication is also raising concerns among pet owners. Kimara Martinez tells Fox News she brought her rescue cat to Animedic to be spayed and became worried about her pet because of the shortage of medications. 

“I love her,” Martinez said. “She is like a part of my family and I would want the same care for her as I would anyone else in my family.”

Veterinarians say the difficulty with animals is that they cannot communicate the amount of pain they are in. 

In some cases, Fox reports, pet owners are forgoing diagnostic testing because the opioids shortage is making the procedures more expensive. 

According to Jones, this type of shortage is different than most. “Shortages are common in this field, but this is different,” Jones said. “They are not saying we don’t have the drugs, they are saying we can only give X amount of the drug.”

Last year, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) enforced a 25% decrease in opioid manufacturing and another 20% in 2018.

In the meantime, Jones says that all veterinarians can do is wait. 

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Beth is a Minnesota girl who got sober at age 20. By day she is a website designer, and in her spare time she enjoys writing about recovery at www.lifetobecontinued.com, doing graphic design and spending time with her boyfriend and three dogs. Find Beth on LinkedInInstagram and Twitter.