It leads to environmental problems.

CORVALLIS, OR – Many pet owners have no idea of the correct ways to get rid of leftover heartworm pills, bottles of flea shampoo and other care products they longer need – and more than half of veterinarians aren't helping, a study has found.

Researchers at Oregon State University discovered that more than 60 percent of veterinary care professionals do not counsel clients on the environmental stewardship aspect of medicine disposal. The findings represent an opportunity to dramatically reduce watershed contaminants, according to a press release from the university.

"People are just starting to understand the impact that discarded pharmaceuticals and personal care products have on the environment," said Jennifer Lam, the study’s corresponding author. Lam worked on the research while a graduate student in marine resource management.

"This study opens the door and shows a communication gap, shows where there’s an opportunity to help educate people," she said. "There’s not much communication going on between veterinary care professionals and their clients on how to dispose of expired pet medicines, meaning there’s a lot of potential for those professionals to help their clients learn what to do."

Lam, now a senior analyst for Blue Earth Consultants, and other researchers at OSU surveyed 191 pet owners. They found that nearly half discarded unneeded care products and medicine in the garbage.

Researchers surveyed 88 environmental educators and 103 veterinary care professionals. The survey found that 61 percent of the veterinary professionals did not share information about proper disposal with their clients. And the 39 percent who reported sharing that information did so only 19 percent of the time.

Lam said barriers to communication include lack of knowledge about proper disposal, time, cost and lack of concern on the part of both client and care provider.

The national Sea Grant program is partnering with the American Veterinary Medical Association to promote proper disposal of pharmaceutical and personal care products: dropping them off at a take-back event or bringing them to a depository such as those in place at some police stations and college campuses.

This research was funded in part by Oregon Sea Grant. Findings were published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Read more from Oregon State University

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