As more pet owners steal their dogs' opioids, states ask veterinarians to stop it

As more pet owners steal their dogs' opioids, states ask veterinarians to stop it

VicesJuly 12, 2018 By Reilly Capps

Starting this month, veterinarians in Virginia have to check in with the government if they give a dog, cat or bird an opioid like tramadol and hydrocodone, a benzo like Xanax or the anesthetic ketamine.

Not 'cause the pooches are getting hooked on bars (though some do). Not that the pups are gonna start selling stolen TVs. Not that Chihuahuas are gonna need Narcan.

It's that pet owners across the country are lying about their animal's ailments or noshing their best friends' meds or otherwise getting fucked up on doggo's pills.

So veterinarians in Virginia now have to check the state's Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP), a database with the prescription histories of drug-seeking owners, before the prescribe a controlled substance of abuse, so vets can investigate when the woman trying to get her hamster a 90-day supply of intravenous Dilaudid is a saint or a scammer.

Other states are right there with Virginia. In the last couple years, Colorado and Maine started requiring vets to check the PMP. Other states, like California, give vets access to the list but don't require them to check it. Alaska and Connecticut capped scripts at a low level, usually a week's supply.  

Opioids have legit uses on real pain. But they're also super addictive. And as the opioid epidemic seeps through society, the whole animal kingdom is bathed in an element of distress like a fine either. It's not just that a football stadium's worth of American die each year from the painkillers. It's that addicts can become assholes: ignore their families, towns, hobbies and jobs. And sometimes pets. And when they use their hairy companions as shills to pick up scripts, there's a special sense of deviousness.

Especially this: a Kentucky woman confessed to cutting her dog with razor blades to have an excuse to take the dog's Tramadol. And Pharmacy Times says a dude taught his dog to cough on command in hopes of scoring hydrocodone.

The vets don't add information to the prescription database. So there's nothing to stop an owner from Vet Shopping — going from clinic to clinic, asking vet after vet for more scripts. Stateline News reported on a boxer owner in Virginia who asked six vets for anti-anxiety pills he planned to use himself. (Cops were called.)

Some veterinarians don't like the program. They call it a pain, and say they don't need monitoring because they don't hand out that many pills. But some say it's worth it.

"Practically speaking, it’s hard to prove this is making a big difference," David Gurzak, a family vet in Portland, Maine, told NBC News. "But it’s such a terrible crisis," he added, "whatever avenues we pursue to avoid the diversion of drugs is good idea in my book."

[Cover photo from Shutterstock.]