Special Report: Punishing Pets for Pills

Special Report: Punishing Pets for Pills
Updated: May. 8, 2019 at 4:54 PM CDT
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OWENSBORO, KY (WFIE) - Addicts are after Tramadol, an opioid given to cancer patients when no other pain killers work.

It’s only one of a few drugs that can be used to treat humans and pets.

One local vet says it’s changed how her office writes prescriptions because they can be abused.

Doctor Whitney Bruce’s patients can’t speak for themselves, so often, it’s their owners who advocate for them when they’re sick or hurt.

“It’s great that owners are advocates for their pets and everything, because obviously they can’t speak for themselves," Bruce said. "But when we do a physical exam, we’re assessing all of these different things.”

Now they’re looking for more than a diagnosis. Dr. Bruce says she must also be hyper aware of her patient’s owners.

“We had a client, and it wasn’t one of our long term clients or anything, that was hurting their pet and going and trying to get medications from different offices around the area," Bruce said.

That’s right. A pet owner here in the Tri-State, is accused of hurting their pet to feed their own addiction.

“It’s really sad for those people too that they mentally need this so badly that they’re willing to hurt an animal to get it," she said.

Another case in Kentucky sent a woman to prison for four years.

She was convicted on animal cruelty and drug charges after repeatedly cutting her dog with a razor to get drugs.

Doctor Bruce says it’s changed the way she and fellow vets at Wills animal hospital write prescriptions.

“We’re a little bit more conservative just because we don’t want to contribute to it," Bruce said. "And there are cases where it would be nice if we could send the patients home with that.”

Bruce says they prescribe opioids like Tramadol after very painful surgeries. Even then, it is in limited quantities or only given at the animal hospital. It’s something she might not have even considered a decade ago.

“We’re able to give them pain medications that are making them more comfortable and then now we kind of have to pump the breaks and really consider who we’re giving it to and who we’re not," she said. "And really prioritizing the patients that need it the most, unfortunately.”

Veterinarians in Kentucky don’t have a way to see a pet owners drug history like a doctor’s office does. More and more of them, like Dr. Bruce, are now prescribing opioids though human pharmacies, which also track that information.

“It is holding back some because do I have patients that would probably benefit from being sent home with something stronger? Yes," Bruce said. "But at the same time we have to be so cautious, because we don’t have a way to monitor everybody. We don’t have a way to know if they’re going to sell it or if they’re going to take it our what they’re going to do.”

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