The Truth About Veterinary Drug Expiration Dates

Monitoring veterinary drug expirations dates can keep your pet safeFor some people expiration dates are a hard and fast rule. Gallon of milk that expired yesterday? Not worth it. For others, though, dates on food and other items are viewed as merely a suggestion. That yogurt in the back of the fridge probably has at least a week or two past the stamped date, right?

When it comes to veterinary drug expiration dates, it is not so safe to gamble. Animal Medical Hospital wants you to know why the dates on your pet’s medications matter.

Dates Matter

The American Veterinary Medical Association mandates that veterinary drug expiration dates be provided on all dispensed medications when appropriate. All drugs originating from our pharmacy will have one displayed on the label.

Over time, any substance undergoes chemical changes simply due to environmental exposure. Prescription medications are no different. The FDA has set the legal definition for expiration to be the time at which 10% of the active pharmaceutical ingredient has decomposed.

Many drugs, such as antibiotics, are intended to be given as a full course with no leftovers. Others, though, may be prescribed on an as needed basis. This makes it more important to keep close tabs on the the expiration date.

Remember the following:

  • If only a month and year are listed, the medication is expired on the last day of the listed month.
  • If no date can be found, it is safest to consider a medication expired six months after being dispensed.
  • Liquid and other mixed prescriptions should be discarded after two weeks.
  • Expiration dates are only achieved when a medication is stored according to directions (look at temperature, light exposure, humidity, etc.).
  • Always discard medications that have obvious changes to color, texture, etc.

Reasons to Honor Veterinary Drug Expiration Dates

So, your pet’s expired meds don’t exactly turn into a pumpkin after they reach their expiration date, but there are some good reasons to dispose of them

Ineffectiveness Using a medication that is not as potent as intended could result in the medication being ineffective. This can delay appropriate treatment, allowing for a condition to worsen in the interim, potentially putting the pet at risk. Incomplete antibiotic courses, even if not expired, can result in lack of treatment, subjecting the pet to relapse or even antibiotic resistance.

Inappropriateness Even a medication that was once prescribed to an individual pet may no longer be appropriate. Changes in health status, other concurrent conditions, and the addition of new medications or supplements could make an old prescription inappropriate. Always consult with us before starting your pet on anything.

It’s a good habit to check veterinary drug expiration dates periodically and dispose medications past their prime often, so that they are no longer a temptation or potential accidental exposure risk.

Disposing of drugs, particularly controlled substances, is not always straightforward. Before you just toss them in the trash, refer to the FDA’s safe drug disposal information to be sure that you are doing things properly.

Expiration dates on drugs exist to help keep you and your pet healthier and happy. Doing your part to observe and honor them helps us know that your pet is treated according to the highest standards of veterinary medicine, and we are proud to help achieve that.

For more information, or to ask about an expired veterinary medication, please call us.