March is Poison Prevention Awareness Month so we want to have the "you could be poisoning your pet" conversation. Many well meaning people have poisoned their pet by giving them human medications, both over the counter and prescription drugs. Dogs and cats metabolize and react differently to medications than we do. Never, ever should you give your pet anything before getting approval from a veterinarian. This also includes giving your dog or cat medicine that has been prescribed for another pet.
Here are examples of human medications and what the results can be if given to a dog, cat or small animal.
Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs). NSAIDs decrease inflammation and pain and are a good choice if you have a headache or joint or muscle pain. Some NSAIDs are safe for pets, but the NSAIDs you take aren't. If your pet takes ibuprofen, aspirin, naproxen sodium or other NSAIDs, it could experience vomiting, diarrhea, stomach ulcers, or liver and kidney damage.
Acetaminophen. Cats are particularly sensitive to acetaminophen and can die if they ingest it. Both cats and dogs may develop liver damage from the over-the-counter medication, according to Drugs.com.
Vitamins and Supplements. The vitamins and supplements you take to improve your health could harm your pets. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center reports that alpha-lipoic acid, xylitol, iron, vitamin D3 and coffee extract, common ingredients in supplements, are particularly unsafe for pets. These ingredients may cause health problems ranging from vomiting to seizures to death.
Antidepressants and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Medication. If your pet swallows ADHD or antidepressant medication, it could develop seizures, tremors, elevated heart rate and high body temperature.
Decongestants and Allergy Medications. Pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine, the active ingredients in medications that relieve your congestion or ease your allergy symptoms, may make your pets very ill. These drugs, particularly those that have a "D" at the end of their names, such as Claritin-D, can cause seizures, dangerously elevated heart rate and death.
Beta-Blockers. Beta-blockers used to treat high blood pressure may have the opposite effect on your pet. The drugs could cause your pet's blood pressure and heart rate to drop to dangerously low levels.
Sleeping Aids and Anti-Anxiety Medication. Your pet might become agitated or develop an elevated heart rate or low blood pressure if it swallows sleeping pills or anti-anxiety drugs.
Topical Cancer Medication. Fluorouracil, a topical medication applied to cancerous lesions on the skin, can kill dogs, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Although there have been no reports of deaths in cats, the FDA notes that the medication could also sicken cats that are exposed to it. (Credit - West Lorne Animal Hospital)
While there are some human medications that may be approved by a veterinarian, (none of the above,) you must first get that approval and furthermore, the veterinarian will let you know the appropriate dosage for your dog, cat or small animal. Giving a pet the same dosage you use could cause serious health complications.
Just as important is keeping human medicine out of the reach of curious pets. We child proof our homes and the same precautions are necessary to keep our pets safe. All medications should be kept in a high cupboard with a child lock if your pet knows how to open the door. Never store human and pet medicines together as they can get mixed up, especially those in a prescription bottle.
House guests? Make sure they understand the danger their medications can pose to your pets and give them a space to store their meds to keep your pets out of harm's way.
Remember our pets depend on us to keep them safe!