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Big Bears, Big Solutions: Q&A with SBH Medical on Zoological Compounding

Have you ever tried giving a pill to a cat or eye drops to a polar bear? Giving medication to animals, large or small, domesticated or wild, isn’t the easiest thing to do. This is where a compounding pharmacy can help make a personalized prescription in a form that is easier to administer.

SBH Medical in Worthington, OH specializes in veterinary compounding. SBH Medical has been a compounding pharmacy, compounding both sterile and non-sterile, for 14 years. They have three pharmacists and eight technicians, and on average, they fill about 120 compounded medication prescriptions a day. Approximately 60% of their compounding business is veterinary.

MEDISCA spoke with Robert DuPont, Compounding Pharmacy Director at SBH Medical, about their work creating customized medications for household pets and zoo animals. Mr. DuPont has been a compounding pharmacist for 20 years and works closely with veterinarians to develop a treatment plan for his animal patients.

Tell me about your experience working with local zoos and animal rescue groups.

SBH Medical provides compounds to numerous rescue and foster groups — there tends to be a lot of dry eye treatments for dogs and thyroid treatments and oral antibiotics for cats. Similarly, we work with wildlife rescue, regularly compounding doses for frogs, snakes and birds of all sizes. SBH Medical works closely with the Columbus Zoo, providing everything from antibiotic capsules and liquids to pain medications to eye drops for large animals.

How do you work with zoo veterinarians?

Typically, a zoo veterinarian or their assistant will call in to report a condition that they need to treat. Together we discuss options and create an ideal treatment plan for their animal.

What types of zoo animals do you typically compound medications for?

We have treated penguins, bats, kookaburra, pheasant, snakes, pygmy geese, koala bears, kangaroos, mandrill, cheetah, giraffes, armadillo, lemur, elephants, turkey vultures, langur, cougars, flamingos and a polar bear.

Why do larger zoo animals need a different approach then your everyday household pet?

Approaches may differ based on how close a caregiver can get to the animal - if they can even approach them at all. For cases when they cannot get close to the animal, we have previously prepared large volume eye preps to squirt in the eyes of large animals.

When treating populations such as penguins or flamingos, for example, we prepare small, highly concentrated antibiotic capsules so that they can be administered to fish that are then fed to the penguins and flamingos.

What are some unique medical solutions you and the veterinarian have developed for the animals?

We made palatable suspensions out of terrible tasting products needed for treatments. We made oral sedatives and behavioral modifiers to help animals adjust to a new environment. We have prepared antibiotic topical ointments for wound treatments in which the active ingredient is slowly absorbed over time, reducing the amount of times the caregiver needs to spend directly treating the animal.

What is the most common type of medication and condition you compound for an animal? What is the most common flavor you use for animals?

The most common for domestic animals is thyroid treatment for cats, which either is administered as a suspension or ear gel. A common medication form for dogs are sterile eye preps to treat dry eyes. Overall, a large part of what we do are suspensions concentrated in exact doses to take the owners’ guesswork out of it. Chicken flavor is the most popular and usually out starting point for domestic cats however, we’ve found that many cats prefer a marshmallow/chicken flavor comb. Capsules made in animal doses versus human doses tend to be very popular. We also prepare oral treatments, small wax-based tablets, topical gels, creams, sprays and suppositories.

What are some benefits of compounded medications for zoo animals?

We prepare dosing alternatives to what the zoo can commercially purchase. We can provide chemical treatments that are no longer commercially available but are still needed to treat certain infections. These treatments can be for sterile or non-sterile products that cannot be purchased anywhere else.

Can you share any before and after stories for the zoo animals you treat?

Most memorable treatment was a sterile eye prep we made for a polar bear who lost one eye. Our treatment helped the bear keep his other eye for an extended period of time.

MEDISCA is proud to work with and support its customers Robert DuPont at SBH Medical. To learn more about SBH Medical in Worthington, OH please visit



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