The Pennsylvania State Legislature is currently reviewing a bill that would help protect the health of pets.
Introduced by seven state senators, the legislation would require veterinarians to provide pet owners with Client Information Sheets (CIS) with Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs), commonly prescribed pain killers. Vets would also have to perform pre-screened blood tests to determine which animals may not be suitable for these drugs.
Similar legislation is expected to be introduced in other states, predicts www.srdogs.com, which focuses on issues relating to older dogs.
The Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) notes NSAIDs pose serious health risks for pets, mostly dogs, and should be accompanied by detailed safety information. These drugs can be used safely when owners are provided critical information on their use. CIS is the veterinary equivalent of package inserts provided by pharmacies when filling prescriptions for humans. It includes the drug's label, warnings, and contraindications.
Owners of pets that have suffered adverse reactions to veterinary drugs told the FDA they were not provided CIS by veterinarians, though pharmaceutical companies issue CIS in the drugs' packaging. The FDA, as well as the drug industry, urge veterinarians to hand out CIS. Most, though, do not.
“For the past six years, owners have appealed, to no avail, to state veterinary boards to mandate that vets provide this critical information to owners. Similarly hundreds of complaints have been filed against vets for not providing owners with Client Information Sheets," the website maintains.
State Rep. Jeanine Perry, from the 49 th district, said vets should be required to hand out CIS.
“I support the concept that full disclosure should be made if the information is known," said Perry, who is not running for re-election this year due to term limitations.
Oregon City Councilman Matt Szollosi, one of two candidates running for Perry's seat, would support a requirement for vets to hand out CIS.
The FDA "has invested millions of dollars to monitor and review the effects of certain drugs for adverse reactions," Szollosi said. “Client Information Sheets are meant to be simple, informative, and easy to understand, and should not be withheld from pet owners.”
His opponent, Steve Hornyak, supports informed consent.
“As a lifelong pet owner, I would vote for such a law,” said Hornyak. “Our pets are members of our family, and are important companions for many seniors. We should receive the information relevant to any medications or procedures, and their risks. The requirement could be as simple as providing written side effects and risks of medications.”
If enacted, the Pennsylvania bill would also require veterinarians to perform pre-screened blood tests, which could determine risks of drugs and surgical procedures before treatment.
“Blood work plays an integral role in the continuance of a pet’s health,” says Szollosi. “It is often necessary to diagnose illness in a pet, and gives veterinarians an important understanding of the function of key organs, such as the kidney and liver, in advance of the introduction of anesthetics. This is especially important in procedures involving older pets. Certain types of blood work measure blood proteins to verify the existence of chronic disease, infection, anemia, or dehydration."
Routine blood work can detect problems before they are clinically apparent, he added, allowing for treatment before irreversible damage occurs.
"Based on the importance of blood testing, I would certainly consider legislation similar to that introduced in the Pennsylvania Legislature,” said Szollosi.
“I would support a bill if the Pennsylvania legislation demonstrates that pre-screening leads to successful outcomes,” agrees Perry.
State Rep. Peter J. Ujvagi, from district 47, believes the only obstacle regarding blood work and pre-screening is “cost and the choices that an owner can or should be able to make.”
“I would need to carefully consider how that could or should be reflected in a law,” said Ujvagi.
Pets as family
The Press also asked legislators whether they would support changing the law that views pets as personal property, no more valuable than a piece of furniture. The law, which is similar in other states, allows pet owners to collect the "market value" of a pet when courts award damages in veterinary malpractice cases. Since the market value can, in many instances, be zero, lawyers generally won't take such cases. Veterinarians, as a result, pay as little as $300 per year in malpractice insurance premiums. Many pet owners believe there is little, if any, accountability from vets when something goes wrong.
Szollosi, who said he knows what it's like to lose a pet due to veterinary malpractice, sympathizes with pet owners.
“Most…veterinarians are thorough, caring, and informative, but there are certainly some who do not meet the industry’s standards for excellence in the care of pets,” he said.
“The difficulty with veterinary malpractice lies with the question of damages,” says Szollosi. “How can one place a dollar value on the sentimental value of a pet? I agree that simply applying the ‘market value’ theory is insulting to an aggrieved owner, but I would need to review any proposed legislation in this regard carefully to determine the best corrective measure.”
Ujvagi agrees that pets are more than personal property.
"A dog has been part of our family for most of our lives, both here and in Hungary. I certainly consider them to be more than just `property,"' he said.
Perry would first want to review "the full text" of such a bill.
"If the idea of elevating the value of pets becomes a common practice, malpractice insurance could climb, resulting in higher fees for veterinary services," she said.
Pet owners may report any suspected Adverse Drug Experience,” or ADE, to the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine. If it eventually is confirmed, the drug will be listed in the FDA’s ADE reporting database. Pet owners can call 1-888-FDA-VETS to report a suspected ADE.