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Pleasant Hills Apothecary seeks out the right mix for pets

| Wednesday, July 2, 2014, 9:02 p.m.
Randy Jarosz | For the South Hills Record
Pharmacy Technician, Wendy Magnotti, checks the PH of an antacid for acid reflux relief at Pleasant Hills Apothecary on Gill Hall Rd. in Pleasant Hills.
Randy Jarosz | For the South Hills Record
Dr. Kevin Evancic, owner of Pleasant Hills Apothecary, stands in a storage area where commonly used prescriptions are held, at his pharmacy on Gill Hall Rd. in Pleasant Hills.

The pet-medicine portion of Pleasant Hills Apothecary started with a simple question: “Can you do it?”

“We had the ability, and requests came more frequently,” said Kevin Evancic, who runs the business.

His parents started the business to help residents — and their pets. Over the years, they noticed that there was a growing need for pet medication. The apothecary offers a way to relieve pain through old-fashioned medicine.

Compounding is the art and science of creating a unique pharmaceutical product that fits the exact need of a patient, no matter the species. Today, Kevin Evanic runs the business with three other pharmacists, including his father, Ken, and five technicians.

A Duquesne University graduate, Evancic practices this very traditional medicine; mortars and pestles still are used.

It's anticipated that pet owners will spend $15.25 billion nationwide for veterinary care this year.

That's up from $14.37 billion last year, according to the American Pet Products Association, a trade group of more than 1,000 pet product manufacturers.

“As the human-animal bond increases, people spend more on their pets and are concerned about the care they receive,” said David Kirkpatrick, spokesman for the American Veterinary Medical Association. “They become like a family member, other than a pet or property. They do more for them as the bond increases.”

Often, that bond leads pet owners to seek out specialty medicines. If 50 milligrams is too much and 7.5 milligrams is just enough, the correct dose is just a formula away. Flavoring can make it even more people- or feline-friendly.

“It's custom-made for your pet,” Evancic said.

Prices vary because of the cost of the particular chemicals and the complication of the process, said Wendy Magnotti, a trained technician for almost 10 years.

“It's the labor and time it takes, as opposed to just counting pills,” she said.

Working closely with veterinarians, the practice has helped birds, hamsters and large lizards, but mostly cats and dogs.

“We haven't done any giraffes or gorillas, but we could,” Evancic said.

In the last 20 to 25 years, veterinary practices have expanded and offer treatments for thyroid imbalances, diabetes, anxiety issues – even cancer. Medicines often must be prepared specifically for the ailing pets. A few owners even have found better health for their pet through acupuncture.

“The modality of treatment options has exploded,” Evancic said.

Mary Lynne Abel credits compounded medicine for giving Bismark, her miniature dachshund, his last three good years of life.

While steroids had eased his back pain, they also damaged his liver. Compounded medicine did the trick. The new pills leveled the dog's enzyme levels.

“It worked really good in peanut butter or cheese,” Abel said. “He thought it was his dessert every night.”

Pleasant Hills Apothecary is located at 25 Gill Hall Road. For more information, call 412-653-7566.

Dona S. Dreeland is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5803 or ddreeland@tribweb.com.

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