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Generally, there are two types of veterinary pharmacists, veterinary pharmacists and veterinary pharmacist specialists, but the main responsibilities and duties are the same. A pharmacist dispenses medications per a veterinarian's instructions, including compounds, or combinations of medications. Traditionally, a pharmacist worked directly with a veterinarian doing menial jobs and occasionally dispensing medicine, but modern pharmacist specialists have expanded their field of expertise to include other skills, such as pain management, dispensing for online pharmacies, and pharmacokinetics, which is the study of what a body does to a drug. Veterinary pharmacists are also responsible for understanding and complying with all legalities concerning the dispensing of drugs. Some pharmacists extend their education and advance to teaching positions, research scientists, and regulatory agency officials.
The field of veterinary medicine grew considerably in the last half of the 20th century. Veterinarians traditionally mixed and dispensed the medications or trained their assistants to do so. The role of the veterinary pharmacist gained popularity as animal medicines and the regulations governing the use of medicines became more complicated. Although there are several areas of employment in the veterinary medicine field, most veterinary pharmacists work for a veterinarian or at a veterinary pharmacy.
Those veterinary pharmacists who work for a veterinarian or group of veterinarians generally deal with only one type of animal or a specific category of animals. These include small animals and/or large animals, as well as wild and/or exotic animals. Another growing category is aquatic animals. These pharmacists typically specialize in medicines for this category of animal.
Veterinary pharmacist specialists typically work in veterinary pharmacies and may dispense medicines for all types of animals, from domestic companion animals to food or livestock animals. Generally, they need a broader knowledge of animal physiology as well as varied animal disease stages and pharmacokinetics. A veterinary pharmacist specialist may work at a veterinary hospital, a community clinic, or a veterinary pharmacy, which may be online or at a brick-and-mortar store.
No matter where they work, all veterinary pharmacists need to keep up to date in government regulations and the new drugs that are on the market. Often, the pharmacist advises the veterinarian about the medicines that are available, and a pharmacist should be able to alert a veterinarian to contraindicated drugs or ones that may trigger an allergic reaction in an animal. Pet owners rely on their veterinary pharmacist to keep their animals safe. Typically, a veterinary pharmacist prepares written instructions and precautions for the client and reviews them with the client before dispensing the medicine. A pharmacist frequently uses flavoring techniques to entice the animal to accept the medicine and needs to understand the various flavorings to use for different species of animals.
Some pharmacists seek careers in different venues, such as working for pharmaceutical companies, teaching, or working in government agencies to create new regulations and laws. Internationally, veterinary medicine is a rapidly growing field, and the scope of the job is changing rapidly. For example, some veterinary pharmacists are gaining expertise in therapeutic practices, animal pain management, and consultation services to animal owners. A career with a pharmaceutical company may range from a sales representative to a research expert.