Are Animal Medications Safe for Humans to Take?

If you work on a farm or in a veterinary clinic, you may wonder if it's safe to take medication made for animals. This might be tempting if you are sick and you have easy access to animal medication.

Veterinarian checking the heartbeat of a dog
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There are a lot of problems with this. The first is that it is illegal. Veterinarians can't dispense animal medication for human use. This includes drugs like antibiotics.

This should be clear on the package. Animal medication is always marked "not for human consumption."

This article looks at the dangers of taking drugs meant for animals.

FDA Requirements and Animal Drugs

Many animal drugs are generic versions of human drugs. For example, a veterinarian may prescribe prednisone for a pet with an inflammatory condition. This is the same drug humans can get with a doctor's prescription.

Animal drugs, however, are different than human drugs. For example, drugs made for livestock are meant to be mixed with feed.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tests human drugs for safety. They may not do the same level of testing on drugs made for animals.

Animal drugs may have impurities that human drugs don't have. These may not harm animals but could be a risk for people.

Recap

Animal drugs aren't safety tested in the same way human drugs are. They may also contain harmful impurities.

Self-Medication Risks of Taking Animal Drugs

The bigger risk is the risk of using the wrong drug. This is a serious problem if you self-diagnose an infection and then try to treat it with an antibiotic meant for animals.

Your diagnosis may not be correct. The antibiotic may also not be the right one to treat the infection.

Some people may choose to take animal antibiotics because of cost concerns. With most antibiotics, though, the out-of-pocket cost is low. Many antibiotics are generic. Some can be purchased for as little as $4 for a prescription.

The wrong diagnosis or medication can put your health at great risk.

Antibiotic Resistance and Animal Drugs

"Superbugs" are one of the world's major health problems. These are bacteria that become resistant to multiple antibiotics.

Without effective antibiotics, these bacteria can't be kept in check. Terrible and deadly infections can result.

Someone taking animal antibiotics without doctor oversight increases their risk of coming down with a superbug.

This is dangerous for the individual because these bacteria stay in the body. They could cause a later infection that is very hard to treat.

For the public, new superbugs can worsen the problem of antibiotic resistance. This is a problem that plagues modern healthcare.

Recap

Taking antibiotics without doctor oversight can contribute to the problem of antibiotic resistance. This can be harmful to your health and to public health.

Summary

It is dangerous to take drugs meant for animals. Animal drugs don't go through the same safety testing and can contain impurities.

When you self-medicate, you may not be using the right drug. You may also get the dose wrong.

The biggest problem is the potential to create new "superbugs." Taking antibiotics without doctor oversight may contribute to the problem of antibiotic resistance.

A Word From Verywell

The bottom line is that people who work with animals should never take animal medications.

If you believe you need a prescription medication, see your doctor. Your doctor can evaluate your condition and prescribe the right medication.

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5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Veterinary Medical Association. Guidelines for veterinary prescription drugs.

  2. VCA Animal Hospitals. Prednisolone/prednisone.

  3. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. FDA regulation of animal drugs.

  4. Bennadi D. Self-medication: a current challenge. J Basic Clin Pharm. 2013;5(1):19–23. doi:10.4103/0976-0105.128253

  5. Vivas R, Barbosa AAT, Dolabela SS, Jain S. Multidrug-resistant bacteria and alternative methods to control them: an overview. Microb Drug Resist. 2019;25(6):890-908.

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