My wife's new bookshelf arrived and I was tasked with putting it together. Now, I like to think that I am fairly industrious and have built several things with my hands. All of the pieces were pulled out of the box and loosely arranged for assembly. How bad can putting boards together in a way to hold other things be?

After a longer-than-it-should-be while of placing fasteners into predrilled holes to realize the holes didn't match up in the way I was expecting, I looked at the directions. In much less time, the shelf was assembled and secure enough to do its job.

I had the realization that sometimes it is hard simply to read the directions -- and others are in the same predicament as well. With regards to animal medications, information contained on labels of animal drug products are there for many reasons, with the biggest being human safety, animal safety and drug efficacy. It is important to read the label prior to administering the drug to an animal. Medications are coming under greater veterinary control, yet it is still prudent for whoever administers the drug to ensure that he or she is giving it correctly.

Drug labels direct the dose, route and duration of time to give the drug. The dose usually is given as milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg) and milliliters or cubic centimeters (ml or cc) per pound(s). Unless there is a scale present, the animal's weight may need to be estimated. Studies have shown that visual estimation of weight, by trained people, consistently is inaccurate, so get estimates from multiple people when possible to try to hone in on the actual weight. Ideally, a scale should be used.

The route for injectable medications is typically intramuscular (IM) or subcutaneous (SQ or SC) although there are other routes that may be listed. Be sure to give the medicine by the route on the label and according to Beef Quality Assurance guidelines. Injections should be given in the neck in front of the shoulder with a preference for subcutaneous injections. Water and feed-based medications have to go through a veterinarian, and each has its own specific directions for administration.

Some medications require re-dosing and some provide extended coverage for a long duration. Not providing the additional dose or re-dosing while the drugs is still at therapeutic levels, according to the label, can impair therapy. Deviation from the label only can be prescribed legally by a veterinarian. The veterinarian takes responsibility for failed therapies and for establishing an appropriate withdrawal time to protect the food supply.

The label is a wealth of safety information. The withdrawal time for the labelled dose, route and duration is provided on every approved food-animal medication. The withdrawal time allows for the drug to be out of the animal's system prior to harvesting, ensuring that the meat we eat is free from antibiotic residues. Some medications should not be given to certain animals such as pregnant cows. Other drugs may have serious side-effects if the people administering them are exposed to the substance.

One of the most valuable skills that I have had to learn to practice has been to stop and read the directions. It's a personal struggle, with frequent reminders, but the outcome is better if the instructions are followed.

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