Compounding – How it Can Help Our Pets

Deborah Barber Shores, DVM

Pharmaceuticals are used to treat and prevent a wide range of ailments in our animal companions. Sometimes, veterinarians are not able to dispense medications in the dosage required for a particular patient. This is where compounding pharmacies step in and save the day. Dogs, cats, horses and even rabbits can benefit from compounded medications.

As a veterinarian, I use a compounding pharmacy almost every day. Let’s take a look at a few cases where compounded drugs have made a difference for my patients.

Meet Tully

Tully was an 11-year old domestic longhair cat. He was losing weight, howling at night and vomiting several times a day. I diagnosed him with hyperthyroidism, also known as “over-active thyroid.” This condition can cause weight loss, vomiting, hypertension and heart problems in cats. The owners elected to try oral medication, called methimazole, to bring the high level of thyroid hormone down in Tully’s body. Unfortunately, Tully did not tolerate the oral medication very well. Thanks to a compounding pharmacy, I was able to have methimazole compounded into a topical cream. Tully’s Dad was able to apply the cream to the hairless portion of his ear twice a day, treating the hyperthyroidism and preventing unwanted digestive side effects. Tully responded well to the cream and the owners were happy about this affordable alternative.

Meet Whiskers

Whiskers was a 2-year old floppy eared rabbit. He presented to me with a head tilt and nasal congestion. I suspected that he was suffering from “snuffles” (chronic pasteurellosis). These patients can be very difficult to treat, especially if the patient has a middle ear infection. We decided to treat Whiskers with nasal flushes at home and oral Azithromycin. I did not keep Azithromycin in stock in our hospital, so the compounding pharmacy was the only way that I could treat him. Being so small, the dose needed to be appropriate, which was easily done by the compounding pharmacy. Whiskers’ Mom was very pleased that the medication was in an easy-to-dose oral liquid.

Meet Adee

Adee was a 2.5-pound, 6 month-old long-haired Chihuhahua. She presented with an acute upper respiratory infection and a characteristic “goose honk” cough. I suspected that Adee had “kennel cough” (infectious tracheobronchitis) – as she had not been vaccinated and had recently started doggy daycare. “Kennel cough” can be caused by several different ‘bugs’ (up to 10!) and antibiotic therapy should be considered. This patient was so tiny, we did not have any appropriate antibiotics in stock in the right dosage. The compounding pharmacy was able to compound an antibiotic into the dose we needed and made it tasty for Adee to boot – beef flavored drops.

If you are a veterinarian, there has never been a better time to invest in a relationship with a compounding pharmacy. They will help you to practice your best medicine. Pet parents, it is important for you to know that compounders are out there and able to help your pets. If your veterinarian isn’t sure about compounding, share this article at your next visit. Together vets, pet owners and pharmacists can help keep our furry friends healthier than ever.


Priestnall, SL, et. al, New and emerging pathogens in canine infectious respiratory disease. Vet Pathol. March 2014;51(2):492-504.