How it works

You can read or listen to our modules. There is a play button in each heading so you can listen while you read. Or you can listen to the whole module in one go or download it as a podcast. You'll find a play and download button for the whole module at the bottom of this page. At the end of the module there is a quiz, so you can test your knowledge and receive a CPD certificate. You will have to hit the play button on the quiz video and enter your name and email address before you start the quiz.

All licensed medicines come with information to ensure that the products are used effectively and safely. By doing this module you will:

  • Understand the purpose of the summary of product characteristics (SPC).

  • Know how data sheets and product leaflets relate to SPCs.

  • Know where to find information about licensed medicines.

  • Know how the different sources compare.

Every licensed veterinary medicine, whatever the legal category (POM-V, POM-VPS, NFA-VPS or AVM-GSL) has a summary of product characteristics (SPC). Sometimes the abbreviation SmPC is used.  It sets out how a medicine should be used, and the effects (including adverse effects) it may have on animals (and on humans and the environment).  The SPC is a legal document. It is drafted by the company applying for authorisation to market the medicine, but the wording must be approved by the regulatory authority (the Veterinary Medicines Directorate [VMD]; or, for products centrally authorised for the European market, the European Medicines Agency [EMA]). The SPC is a summary of what has been agreed about the product as a result of the regulatory authority’s assessment, and is based on the information (including clinical trial results) gathered during the development of the product. The SPC is updated by the company from time to time as more becomes known about the product (e.g. adverse reactions); all changes must be approved by the regulatory authority. The date of the latest update is included at the end of the SPC.

The SPC has a standard layout (see adjacent). It gives the specific licensed use(s) for the product, and so can help veterinary professionals to know when a product is being used outside the terms of the licence (so-called 'off-label use'). SPCs contain information about how to use a medicine (e.g. how much to give; where to apply a spot-on). 

The SPC also includes important information about what is known about the adverse reactions that might occur, and information on helping to protect the animal, user or environment from harm. For example, SPCs for spot-on flea and tick products advise that dogs should not be allowed to swim in water courses for 2 days after applying the treatment. 

The VMD product database has links to the SPCs of all veterinary medicines licensed for use in the UK, including products with a European-wide licence. Click here to go to the VMD product database and look at the box (below) to see a list of pros and cons of the VMD database.

The National Office for Animal Health (NOAH) is a trade body representing UK pharmaceutical companies that produce veterinary medicines. NOAH publishes a Compendium of datasheets that are contributed by member and some non-member companies. The datasheets are prepared by the pharmaceutical companies and contain identical information to that in the SPCs, although the information might be presented in a different order, and some information (e.g. pharmacology) may be omitted. The Compendium also contains datasheets for unlicensed medicines that are marketed for small pet animals through the Small Animal Exemption Scheme (SAES), which do not have SPCs.  The NOAH Datasheet Compendium is available online and as a book published annually. Click here to go to the online NOAH datasheet Compendium.

NOAH also publishes a Compendium of datasheets for SQPs. It contains datasheets for POM-VPS and NFA-VPS products. The Compendium for SQPs is updated annually and is distributed by AMTRA (one of the regulatory bodies for SQPs) to its members. Look at the box (below) to see a list of the pros and cons of the online NOAH Compendium.

Veterinary medicines often come with a package leaflet. A leaflet must be included in the package if all the information required by law cannot be placed on the immediate packaging. Such information includes the indication(s), dosage instructions, contraindications and any warnings specified in the marketing authorisation. Some non-prescription medicines do not contain a leaflet because all the necessary information is on the pack itself. The contents of leaflets are approved by the regulatory authority. There is no comprehensive online source of package leaflets, but those for products with a European licence (usually POM-Vs) can be found on the EMA website. For more on providing information for clients, see the module What pet owners need to know about medicines.

The BSAVA Small Animal Formulary is published by the British Small Animal Veterinary Association. It contains monographs on drugs (licensed and unlicensed) arranged in alphabetical order of generic name. There is a helpful index to drugs by therapeutic class at the back of the book. Each monograph includes summarised and practical information on formulations, action, uses, safety and handling, contraindications, adverse reactions, drug interactions and dosages, and indicates if a BSAVA client information leaflet is available. Monographs include some brand names of available products, but not necessarily comprehensive lists. The Formulary is compiled by an editorial panel using published and unpublished evidence. Doses are those recommended in SPCs, or are based on published articles or textbooks or on clinical experience. At the end of each monograph is a short list of references to supporting evidence. The Formulary’s editors advise that dose recommendations are guidelines; that clinical judgement must take precedence; and that the Formulary should never be used as the only source of information on an unfamiliar medicine. The Formulary is published in two separate parts: part A covers cats and dogs; part B covers exotic pets (small mammals, birds, reptiles, fish and amphibians). The book version of the Formulary is updated every 3 years (the latest edition of part A [number 9] was published in April 2017). The Formulary is also available as a PDF, an online version and as a smartphone app.

Plumb’s Veterinary Drugs has detailed monographs on a wide range of drugs and covers dogs, cats, exotic animals and farm animals. Each monograph is clearly laid out and covers uses, pharmacology, pharmacokinetics, contraindications and precautions, adverse effects, pregnancy and lactation, overdose, drug interactions, doses, monitoring, client information, storage, dosage forms and regulatory status. The monographs are well referenced and the date of update is included. The information is focused on USA veterinary practice although it does make reference to variations in licensing and uses in other countries, including the UK. Plumb’s Veterinary Drugs is available as a desk book and a pocket version, and online and as an app. The digital version is continuously updated and managed by Brief Media, a veterinary publisher in the USA. The most recent edition of the book (8th) was published in January 2015 by PharmaVet and distributed by Wiley-Blackwell (corrections to this printed edition are published on the website).

Veterinary Prescriber Parasiticide Guide

It can be difficult to make sense of the huge range of companion-animal parasiticides on the market. While the VMD database of SPCs and NOAH Compendium are helpful for finding information on specific products, they do not help with the choice of product. The Veterinary Prescriber Parasiticide Guide is a unique database that contains all the marketed parasiticide medicines for cats, dogs, ferrets and rabbits and is updated every 3 months. It can be searched using any or all of the following categories: species, active ingredient, brand, formulation and parasite or disease. It is very helpful for finding products for specific animal needs, for understanding the difference between the prescription and non-prescription products, and for knowing which products are identical to the well-known brands. The Guide has been created by the same publisher as Veterinary Medicines CPD. It is completely independent and only available through subscription to Veterinary Prescriber (£9.95 per month, cancel anytime). Click here to go to the Veterinary Prescriber website.

See the box (below) for an overview of information sources

Resources table.jpg

·       Become familiar with the resources available to you.

·       Knowledge about medicines is constantly evolving and so it is important to use the most up-to-date sources of information.

·       Bear in mind that book formats quickly become out of date.

·       SPCs or datasheets describe how to use a licensed medicine safely and effectively. They contain important and helpful information.


You can listen to a complete podcast of the module by using the play button below or use the download link on the right-hand side of the player to download the podcast to your mobile device.


Test yourself

To do the CPD quiz and receive your certificate, you will need to hit the play button on the player below and enter your name and email address before you start.