Physicians are known for their oath of “first, do no harm” to their patients. Though this is not in the veterinary oath, these words should be taken to heart, especially regarding the administration of drugs.

Using unapproved routes of administration in food animals can lead to ineffectiveness of the drug, residue violations, injection site reactions, food safety and quality issues and illness or death in the animal.

During drug approval the FDA identifies a specific target organ to determine drug residues following administration by the approved route. “If an unapproved route is used, the residue profile becomes completely unpredictable,” explains Hans Coetzee, BVSc, Cert CHP, PhD, Dipl. ACVCP, Kansas State University. “This will greatly increase the risk for violative residues.” Coetzee gives the example of intramuscular (IM) administration of flunixin. “This is only approved for intravenous (IV) administration. If given IM, this will greatly increase the risk of a violative residue at the site of injection.”

In addition to drug residues at the injection site, certain compounds, such as the macrolide class of antibiotics, will result in significant tissue reactions at the site of injection. “If these are given IM instead of subcutaneously (SQ), there will be a much greater risk for significant bruising and swelling at the injection site,” adds Coetzee. Not only does this cause pain and discomfort to the animal but resolution of these lesions reduces meat quality and violates beef quality assurance regulations. Certain drugs given IV or parentally instead of IM can be fatal to food animals.

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