When you think of a service dog, it’s probably more about the help it can provide others than the care it may need for itself. Pharmacists can play a part to help these animals maintain the keen senses they need to do their jobs.
“With working dogs becoming more prevalent in today’s world, pharmacists should be more aware than ever of what medications they can and cannot take,” says Jacob Sweet, a rising fourth-year student in the College of Pharmacy.
Sweet became interested in working dogs after reading the book No Ordinary Dog by Will Chesney. Learning more about these service animals gave him a new respect for them, says Sweet, whose article “Working Dogs: Getting the Job Done,” on the pharmacist’s role in the care of working dogs, is published in The Voice of Veterinary Pharmacy, a publication of the American College of Veterinary Pharmacists (ACVP).
Sweet praises the ACVP for its service to veterinary pharmacy. He wrote the article to increase pharmacists’ awareness of their potential role in promoting the health of service animals. Along the way, he learned just how sensitive these animals truly are.
The student was intrigued to discover a great variety of capabilities among the diverse population of dogs. Not only can some dogs detect the presence of cancer. Sweet also learned from a study recently published in the UK that dogs trained to detect COVID-19 did so with a 94% accuracy – making them nearly as reliable as PCR testing.
“Due to the nature of their service, excellent hearing, vision, and olfaction is crucial in working dogs. Pharmacists can prevent and monitor potential drug-induced side effects that could interfere with the function of these important senses. Unfortunately, because dogs are not able to communicate side effects that they may be experiencing, by the time the animals are examined damage can already be done. Due to the cost and time associated with training working dogs, paying close attention to medication regimens is crucial.”
Learning about the field
How does a student learn about the field of pharmacy for pets?
As a student in the College of Pharmacy, Sweet studied Veterinary Compounding with Liz Frederickson, Pharm.D. (’14), an assistant professor in both the Department of Pharmacy Practice and Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences. Sweet has also taken courses through the Professional Compounding Centers of America Inc.
Talking with the University’s own veterinarian, Stan Dannemiller, D.V.M.D., director of the Comparative Medicine Unit at NEOMED (where research is undertaken) has been eye-opening, too,
“Even for our pharmacists practicing in the retail setting there will be times when we get veterinary prescriptions,” says Sweet. “We need to be aware of what to do and where to go with questions.”
Earlier this year, Sweet was one of two students nationally to be awarded the 2021 Pharmacy Compounding Foundation and Pharmacists Mutual Insurance Company Compounding Scholarship.