What if your water dragon seems depressed or your python needs antibiotics? Where would you turn? Many veterinarians rely on Mortar and Pestle, a compounding pharmacy in Flagstaff that concocts medicines not only for people but for exotic animals as well.
“We have people, dogs, cats and reptiles. I do lizards sometimes. We have a snake that needs antibiotics. Last week, I had a water dragon,” said Kelsey Herring, owner of the pharmacy. “I get rats, prairie dogs, ferrets and lots of dogs and cats.”
For humans, she tailors prescriptions for patients who are unable for some reason to take the commercially offered pills. They may have allergies to some of its ingredients like lactose or have an allergy to cornstarch, both of which are ingredients in many drugs. She may turn the medication into a liquid for some patients or give it a pleasant flavor. Many doctors rely on her for bio-identical hormone replacement medicine for menopausal women.
“We do a few topical pain creams,” she said.
For pets, she can add flavors to make it easier to administer. Cats love the triple fish flavor; dogs are happy with chicken.
Anyone who has ever tried to give a cat a pill will appreciate that she makes medicinal creams that can be applied to the thin inner flap of a cat’s ear.
“A lot of times oral medications for exotic animals has to be in a much, much smaller dose than for dogs and cats,” said Dr. Jenny Siess of Westside Veterinary Clinic in Flagstaff. “I turn to her when the doses are way too big for the little guys.”
In her practice, Siess said she calls upon Herring at least once a week.
She said the water dragon mentioned above was suffering from an upper respiratory infection. “Life would be difficult without Kelsey,” she said.
Herring took over ownership of the Mortar and Pestle on Sept. 1. She kept the name for practical reasons. “I use a mortar and pestle every day because we are a compounding pharmacy,” she said.
That means putting together a number of pieces of the pharmaceutical puzzle for some of her more unusual patients. “The vet will call in person and tell us what they want. Then we get it made up and tell the pet owner how to use it. It’s really fun,” she said.
Herring earned her undergraduate degree in chemistry at Northern Arizona University, then went on to Colorado for her doctorate in pharmacy. Still wondering what to do with her degree, she had not given a thought to owning a pharmacy. She liked research and knew she wanted to do something in health care. She also wanted to stay in Flagstaff, where she was born and raised. An avid skier, she grew up skiing at Snowbowl and enjoys mountain biking.
Lauren Driebe, former Mortar and Pestle owner, asked her if she would think about buying the pharmacy. “She had owned multiple pharmacies and was ready to step back,” Herring said. “This is my dream job, I couldn’t turn it down.”
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
“I think it was from my dad. When I was studying for my pharmacy boards, I was being a hermit, studying every single day and not doing anything fun. He told me to stop working so much because you can’t stop living because of this. Live your life every day. That does not mean you shouldn’t work hard, you are working for a reason, but you have to have fun.”
Who do you admire and why?
“I would say Lauren [Driebe, former Mortar and Pestle] is a huge inspiration in my life. She built the pharmacy from the ground up. I cannot thank her enough and I am beyond grateful.’
What is your favorite thing to do outside of work?
“I love to travel. I am always on the move and really like exploring and going to places I have not been before.”
When was the last time you sang out loud?
“I actually went to a Britney Spears concert last weekend and I sang my heart out.”
What’s your favorite movie?
“I have to say the Harry Potters. All of them.” FBN
By Patty McCormac, FBN
Mortar and Pestle is located at 2708 North Fourth Street in Flagstaff.
For more information about Mortar and Pestle, call 928-526-2446 or visit flagmp.com
Flagstaff native Kelsey Herring is living her dream as owner and pharmacist of Mortar and Pestle.
Photo by Bestey Bruner