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Have you experienced ‘vet shopping’?

The Washington Post reports on a case of a pet owner purposefully injuring her dog to gain access to its prescription medication

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The use of opioids and dissociative anesthetics, such as fentanyl and ketamine respectively, are essential for veterinarians to treat severe pain and for surgery. However, with the United States facing a human-related opioid crisis, there are cases of pets being injured so their owners can get hold of their drugs.

The Washington Post brought this issue up in their recent news item, “The horrifying way some drug addicts are now getting their fix.” They told the story of Heather Pereria, who took her injured Golden retriever to Elizabethtown Animal Hospital in Elizabethtown, Ky. There,

Chad Bailey, DVM, fixed her dog up, and then gave her a prescription of Tramadol after Pereira requested it.

Dr. Bailey thought nothing of it when Pereira returned a few days later, requesting another prescription of Tramadol as her child had “flushed it down the toliet.” But by the third visit, when Pereria’s dog came in with a new injury, Bailey became suspicious.

“That’s when I took notice,” Bailey told The Washington Post. “The cut looked sharp and clean — not like the kind in nature when a dog is cut on a fence or in a fight.”

His suspicions, that the dog kept getting injured and Pereria knew exactly what drug to ask for, led him to call the police. They came and arrested her, and as the Post writes:

“Pereira ultimately admitted to authorities that she had cut her dog with her husband’s Micro Touch disposable razor blade three different times to obtain Tramadol, according to court documents.

Authorities said she did not have a child, although she had blamed one for flushing the dog’s pills, according to the documents.

In 2015, Pereira was convicted on three counts of torture of a cat or a dog, as well as five counts of obtaining a controlled substance by making false statements, which is a felony, according to the News-Enterprise. She was sentenced to four years in prison; however, she was released last month to mandatory reentry supervision after serving two years, according to the Kentucky Department of Corrections.”

The cases of “vet shopping” have led some states ordering veterinarians to take part in Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs. However, many veterinarians argue that there isn’t enough conclusive data of this being a wide-spread problem that they should start having to report what controlled substances they prescribe. In fact, they argue, publicizing it might encourage more people to start vet shopping.

The American Veterinary Medical Association has also argued that while veterinarians want to help reduce prescription drug abuse, any regulations might keep them from providing the quality care their pet patients need.

“Some veterinarians are going to shy away from prescribing medications because reporting them is costly and time-consuming,” John de Jong, former chairman of the board of directors of the AVMA, told the Post. “Unless it gets to be a bigger problem, it’s asking a lot.”

What do you think about this issue? Have you had any “vet shopping” experiences? Have you taken steps to reduce the use of opioids in your practice? Let us know in the comments.

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