The use of transdermal patches within human medicine is very popular for people who may want to quit smoking, relieve pain and even to replace hormones. Can these drug patches work for our pets?
Transdermal drugs for animals are very similar to those used for humans. In some cases like fentanyl, the pain killer, it is identical. The drug is administered through the patch which is applied to a saved area of your pets skin, thus enabling the drug to reach the bloodstream across the skin (transdermally). Not all drugs used transdermally are available in patch form, some drugs are compounded by pharmacists into a gel which is applied to your pets skin, usually the undersied of the ear flap. The fentanyl patch, use mainly in humans, has been used on dogs, cats and horses in the use of pain control management.
In general drugs which are given transdermally enter the bloodstream much slower than using other routes, such as orally or by injection, therefore using patches would not work for drugs that are needed immediately. These drugs tend only to be used when the drug is not critical to the animals immediat survival. Transdermally used drugs can take up to 24 hours to begin working and are therefore only used for non life threatening conditions such as feline hyperthyroidism, this can be monitored by measuring thyroid hormone levels and ensuring the transdermal drug is working. This method of delivery can iliminate the need for daily pills for your pets. If you are the owner of a hyperthyroid cat using ointment on its ear once or twice a day, it will save your having to force feed your cat with pill and keep your human animal bond in tact!
If your dog had to undergo surgery for example, veterinarians may use a fentanly patch before and after surgery to help reduce the pain. This in turn reduces the number of injectable drugs and anesthesia required. Your dog may then be able to return home sooner rather than having to stay in hospital and therefore be more comfortable recovering at home. Another advantage of transdermal drugs is that they bypass the gastrointestinal system and will need less processing by the liver.