Many pet owners, jack of extortative pricing, are defying the recommendations of drug manufacturers and vets, and working-out ways to economise. When tick season arrives and monthly application of spot-on is no longer enough, owners of smaller dogs and cats are grabbing the syringe, doing the math, and splitting vials intended for use on much larger animals. Cutting the cost of some treatments by up to 90%, suddenly the crippling financial burden of fortnightly spot-ons seems affordable to most. Those with dogs over 25kg are unable to rort the system.
For decades, this type of ‘off-label’ use of over-the-counter medication has been commonplace on the farm where bulk volumes of argicultural chemicals intended for herds of sheep and cow have been used for parasite control in the farm dog.
This may sound dangerous, and it’s true, breaching manufacturers instructions voids their liability, but vets are doing exactly the same thing when we prescribe human medications to pets in the clinic. As long as sufficient research is done to ensure the drug isn’t uniquely toxic to a particular species, and the dose is calculated accurately, there’s little risk.
Warnings against such consumer behaviour by vets and Big Pharma aren’t only commercial self-interest. We are regularly called to advise and treat in cases of overdose and toxicity. Given some Dog-Only supermarket products and Advantix® can kill a cat, it’s understandable that the industry, including myself, cannot recommend vial splitting. The more people doing it, the more mistakes will inevitably occur.
That being said, in the interests of harm-minimisation, here are some very important points on splitting spot-on treatments, for those insistent on defying our recommendations.
Even the most experienced and dextrous of users will risk getting a certain amount of product on their hands. Unless you’re blase about handling chemicals, it’s worthwhile using gloves when drawing insecticide into syringe, especially with Advantix®. You’ll need a needle or fine, stiff tube to act like a straw. There’s the obvious risk of stick injury to human, but remove the needle before applying to pet’s skin. You don’t wanna inject kitty with insecticide, no matter how desperate you are to eradicate fleas. Applying doses to the pet are less messy and can usually be done safely by bare hand.
Manufacturers packaging protects the product from 2 important things: light and air. Drugs and insecticides can be destroyed and rendered ineffective if mishandled. Keep in the syringe, expel all bubbles, and store in a cool, dark place. Fridge is ideal, but under the sink or other ‘chemical repository’ is ok. Airtight tupperware is best as some of these insecticides are volatile. Revolution is very volatile and must be stored chilled once packaging is breached. Do not freeze.
Spliting vials only saves money if dividing a large dog vial for use in smaller pets. These large vials will contain anywhere from 2 to 4mls of product, depending on brand. If treating a cat or small dog there may be as many as 8 to 10 treatments in each large vial. You will need an appropriately sized syringe to draw-up the entire contents of the vial, with sufficiently fine gradations to give a correct dose.
If a syringe has been in the fridge for a while, gently move the plunger to ensure it’s sliding freely before applying to pet. Sudden release of a stiff syringe may result in accidental overdose.
There are some variations in formulation between cat, puppy and adult dog formlations. The most notable are:
- Frontline Plus® for dogs has less (L)-methoprene than that for cats. Using a dog formulation on a cat will underdose this ingredient. An insect growth regulator, methoprene effects development of the baby fleas and may reduce long-term flea control, but not anti-tick efficacy.
- Advocate® for dogs has more moxidectin than that for cats. Using a dog formulation on a cat will overdose with this agent. Advocate® can be safely split for use on small dogs but is risky in the cat. Symptoms of moxidectin overdose in a cat may be gasrointestinal or neurological. A case report of a cat afflicted with similar clinical signs is described at CSI Bangalow: Spiked Custard?
- Revolution® has a single active, safe in both cat and dog, but it’s concentration varies: the formulation for puppies, kittens and cat is half strength. If splitting a large dog vial and applying the volume stated on the packaging for a cat, a double dose would be given. Take careful note of the half volumes shown below.
- Advantix® just to say it again – NEVER USE THIS ON CATS. If you get Advantix® on your hands when splitting a vial for the dogs, do not touch your cat before thoroughly washing your hands with warm soapy water.
Justifications for Vial Splitting
There’s a number of situations described below, when economising on flea control is most imperative. If you’re going to split vials and massively slash your annual flea and tick control bill, please exploit the opportunity this saving provides. Splitting vials and then miserly using products infrequently to economise further, is not going to engender sympathy when your pet presents at the clinic with flea allergy or a tick.
1. Financial Hardship – those who question ‘Why should someone who can’t afford to treat their pet be allowed to have one in the first place‘ are neglecting to acknowledge that pets can live for more than a decade, and our financial situation can change. Some can’t stand seeing homeless dogs euthanased and take on more than they can provide for. Stating ‘pets are a luxury item’ is ignoring the reality that, unless we assets-test and regulate pet ownership like child adoption, all economic strata will continue to seek animal companionship, irrespective of resources. Vial splitting may at least make the lives of the poor more comfortable.
2. Tick Season - application of Avantix® or Frontline® every 2 weeks during a 6-month tick season is cost inhibitive for many. Stretching out the treatment interval to 3 weeks runs the risk of a case of tick paralysis that can blow the budget even more severely. Splitting vials may save lives in this situation. For more see Tick Prevention: Cost versus Benefit
3. Flea Allergic pets, like those of us allergic to mosquito bites, will incessantly itch and pull out all their hair if just one flea gets past the flea control. Given most spot on agents only achieve high kill rates, above 95%, for the first 2 weeks of the month, fortnightly application is often recommended by dermatologists when treating flea allergy. This is cost inhibitive for many, especially if you need all year round protection in warmer climates. For more see the links below.
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