We've all seen movies in which gangsters are treated by (paid or coerced) veterinarians in order to avoid law enforcement in hospitals. How bad are animal-grade pharmaceuticals for human health, in real life? I assume that they are held to decent standards of purity, and sterility. How do these compare to human-grade drugs? Are they OK, say, for emergency situations?

  • More often than not they're the same drugs. I've owned dogs most of my life, and probably 95% of the prescriptions we give them come from the same drugstore we get ours and they're the same drugs. That said, it depends on the drug in question. There's no answer to your question because it's too broad.
    – Carey Gregory
    Aug 19, 2019 at 3:54
  • Can you find a way to narrow it down to a specific drug or class of drugs?
    – Carey Gregory
    Aug 19, 2019 at 3:58
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    I don't have a specific drug in mind. If some types of medicines are held to the same standards as those for humans, and others not, then an explanation of why that is the case would certainly be the starting point of a good answer to this question :)
    – Mowgli
    Aug 19, 2019 at 4:05
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    This is a good question. For example, suppose I have bronchitis but can only obtain horse antibiotics from the local farm supply shop. Assuming I match drug, dosage, route, etc., how much of a "risk" am I taking on? I recognize that this would hardly ever be clinically recommended as a best practice, but can the risk be quantified or at least described in a coherent way (e.g. 2% greater chance of being poisoned by impurities, 0.5% chance of having a seizure from veterinary-specific binders and inactive ingredients, etc.), or is "don't do it, it's baaaad" the most anyone can say? Aug 19, 2019 at 22:11

1 Answer 1


Some problems with using veterinary drugs by humans:

1) It's illegal.

Any deviation from the label, by veterinarians or lay persons is an illegal use...(American Veterinary Medical Association)

2) It can be harmful for your actual condition.

If you wrongly self-diagnose yourself, a certain drug that is not intended to treat your actual condition, can dangerously interact with it.

Example: fish antibiotics:

...most upper respiratory problems, for example, have the same symptoms. But many of the diseases are viruses and don't respond to antibiotics....taking an antibiotic can complicate the course of that event (U.S. Department of Defense, 2002).

3) It can cause significant side effects.

Drugs intended only for animals have not been tested in humans, so they can have significant side effects in humans (due to active or added substances).

Example 1:

Closantel is a halogenated salicylanilide with a potent anti parasitic activity. It is widely used in management of parasitic infestation in animals, but is contraindicated in humans.

A 34-year-old man with depression was referred to our center with progressive loss of vision in both eyes 10 days after unintentional ingestion of three 500 mg tablets of Closantel (BMC Ophtalmology, 2016).

Example 2:

Acepromazine is a phenothiazine that is used exclusively in veterinary medicine for multiple purposes.

A 54-year-old woman intentionally ingested 950 mg of her dog’s acepromazine. Within 3 h of ingestion, she developed central nervous system and respiratory depression along with hypotension requiring non-invasive ventilation and vasopressors (Journal of Medical Toxicology, 2015).

  • Case 1 is not really relevant to biology itself, and cases 2 and 3 are only valid in the case of people taking the wrong drug (e.g. taking antibiotics is useless for viral infections, even if the antibiotics are human-grade). However there are plenty of active molecules in veterinary drugs that are, or have been, used in human therapy; for example ampicillin, lidocaine, isoflurane, and many others. Do you have any insight about these?
    – Mowgli
    Sep 9, 2019 at 0:05

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