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Is your pharmacy ready to provide pharmacy services to animals?

April 20, 2022
Key points for pharmacy teams from ACP’s updated standards of practice.

Updated standards of practice came into effect on January 1, 2022, that include important direction for regulated members who provide care to animals. Animals are a small but very distinct group of patients at many community pharmacies and regulated members must understand their responsibilities and limitations when serving these patients.

Regulated members must clearly understand the differences in their scope of practice when providing services for animal patients compared to human patients. Regulated members who serve animal patients are encouraged to review the following articles previously published by ACP to support their role in serving animal health:

It’s important to remember that pharmacists and pharmacy technicians are not animal health experts and, as a result, their scope is limited to compounding, dispensing, and selling drugs. Pharmacists have limited prescribing authority when caring for animal patients. It is expected that regulated members will collaborate with veterinarians for their animal patients.

Some key tips to prepare your pharmacy to provide care for animals are found below.

Patient record

Throughout the standards, requirements for animals differ from those of human patients. For animal patients, start by making sure that the pharmacy has a consistent and clear method to indicate the following on the patient record:

  • the name or identifier for the animal or herd,
  • the species of animal,
  • the name of the patient agent for the animal,
  • whether the animal may enter the food chain, and
  • the number of animals treated if the prescription is for a herd of animals.

This minimizes the chance of errors, ensures compliance with the standards, and ensures the safety of the animal.

Schedule 2 and schedule 3 drugs

Regulated members are reminded that schedule 2, schedule 3, and non-prescription medications intended for human use are considered extra label drug use (ELDU) when used in animals. This means that these medications should not knowingly be sold for animals without a prescription. Questions about these medications for animals should be directed to the pharmacist and the pharmacist may then wish to refer the agent to a veterinarian. Pharmacy licensees should ensure their entire pharmacy team is aware of what steps to take when an individual requests a non-prescription drug for an animal.


Pharmacist prescribing is only allowable to renew a prescription to support continuity of care. Pharmacists may not adjust doses, make therapeutic substitutions, prescribe at initial access, or prescribe in emergencies for animal patients. Additionally, if a prescription is for a medically important antimicrobial, the pharmacist may not renew the prescription. In all these cases, the animal’s agent must be referred to a veterinarian. Pharmacists need to familiarize themselves with Health Canada’s list of medically important antimicrobials as a part of their assessment to renew prescriptions for animal patients.

Medical reference

Standard 4.16 of the ACP Standards for the Operation of Licensed Pharmacies (SOLP) requires that licensed pharmacies that provide services for animals have a veterinary reference available. A list of appropriate references can be found in the required references on the ACP website. Licensees need to ensure a suitable reference is in place before regulated members provide any pharmacy services for an animal and pharmacists that do not have access to a veterinary reference must refer prescriptions for animal patients to another pharmacy.