A nationwide shortage of injectable painkillers and anaesthetics could soon affect surgeries for pets.
The drugs manufactured by Sandoz Canada are being rationed because the company cut production to meet safety standards and deal with a recent fire.
That prompted the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association and some provincial organizations, such as the College of Veterinarians of British Columbia, to send out an alert to its members telling vets that hospitals will get priority over veterinary clinics.
"It's very, very annoying because you are used to certain drugs," said Jean Gauvin, spokesman of the national veterinary organization.
"We know they're effective and now there's a learning curve with certain drugs and some drugs are coming. Some other alternatives will probably be a bit more expensive."
Gauvin also said it will be a couple of weeks before clinics turn to alternative drugs and at least a year before they get their regular supply back.
Clinics have trouble finding drugs
As a result Dr. Uschi Craigdallie with the Vancouver Animal Emergency Clinic said she is most concerned about shortages of anti-seizure medications and opiods for old pets.
"When we have to start ordering new drugs and they're not being supplied to us ... we may run into problems, he said."
The drug shortage could last from 12 to 18 months and pharmacist Allan Baker said he is getting calls from worried veterinary clinics every day.
"The most urgent cases would I suspect would get treated first and anything that can be delayed would be set back until they were able to get the drugs that they need," said Baker.
Baker says some drugs can be "compounded" or made by certified pharmacists but that can cost pet owners three to four times more.
An Ottawa veterinarian told CBC News he has never seen such a drug shortage for animal medical care.
"The extent of this is far beyond anything that I've seen. It's just the sheer size of the number of drugs that are being limited and the extent to which they’re being limited for," said Dr. Nigel Gumley from the Cedarview Animal Hospital.
Last month, Sandoz announced it was scaling back production of certain drugs — mostly painkillers, antibiotics and anaesthetics — to upgrade its Quebec facility after quality-control assessments by the FDA warned the factory fell short of its standards.
Then, to exacerbate supply concerns, a fire in the ceiling above the boiler room of Sandoz's Boucherville plant halted all production.