What Does a Pet Chemist Do?

C. Mitchell

Pet chemists can work in a range of settings with varying responsibilities, but all are involved somehow in studying chemical processes related to animals. Most pet chemist duties are chiefly concerned with pharmaceuticals, either in terms of creating specific pet medications or dosing human drugs for animal ailments. Chemists can work in labs, in pharmacies, or in veterinary clinics.

A pet chemist's work might be done in a lab setting.
A pet chemist's work might be done in a lab setting.

Lab work is at the heart of most pet chemists’ jobs. Tasks range from the routine, like running veterinary tests and analyzing animal patient blood samples, to the complex. Some of the most in-depth work centers on animal disease research and drug testing.

Veterinary pharmacists need to keep up to date on government regulations and the new drugs that are on the market.
Veterinary pharmacists need to keep up to date on government regulations and the new drugs that are on the market.

Animal drug development is similar in many respects to human pharmacology, but is often made more complicated because of the diversity of biological systems at issue. Animal bodies function differently between and sometimes even within species. This does not always require dedicated animal expertise from a pet chemist — most professionals can work on drugs intended for a range of creatures — but an acute knowledge of the major differences is almost always required. For this reason, most pet chemists doing drug research and testing have training in veterinary science.

A pet chemist may also be responsible for actually dosing and preparing animal prescriptions. Traditionally, the term “chemist” applied to pharmacists as well as lab-based scientists. A chemist or druggist was responsible for mixing drugs according to doctors’ orders, then dispensing them to the patient. Modern pharmacists still perform many of these duties, and must usually have extensive pharmacological training before stepping behind the counter.

In most communities, pet pharmacies exist only within animal hospitals and veterinary clinics. Pet chemist jobs in these settings are usually very similar to standard pharmacy jobs, except that the clientele are pets and their owners. Most of the time, these professionals are either veterinarians themselves, or ordinary pharmacists with specialized training in animal dosing. It is the rare school that will issue degrees specifically in pet pharmacy.

Regular pharmacies in smaller, particularly rural communities often stock pet medications, as well. The pharmacists who staff these shops must be familiar with animal drugs and able to follow veterinarian instructions on dosing human drugs for animal use. In this setting, a pharmacist is not always considered to be a strict pet chemist, but is usually expected to have the expertise needed to perform the pet chemist job on an as-needed basis.

Pet chemist requirements often vary by jurisdiction. Veterinary pharmacy licenses are sometimes expected, though in most places, anyone with a pharmacy license can dispense any drug, be it for man or beast. In some places, animal drug dosing requires no particular expertise. Much depends on local laws and customs.

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