Beware the medicine cabinet

When we think about pet-proofing our homes, it makes sense to put away leftover food, cover the garbage bin, and make sure your favorite slippers are out of reach. However, securing the medicine cabinet probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind, but perhaps it should be. The Pet Poison Hotline reports that nearly 50% of all the calls they receive involve human medications, both prescription and over-the-counter.

The following common medications pose a serious threat to pets:

  • NSAIDs –  Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as Advil, Naproxin, and Aleve, are staples in many medicine cabinets, but even one or two of these pills can cause serious stomach ulcers and liver failure in pets.
  • Tylenol – Acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, is considered very safe for humans. Dogs and cats can suffer serious side effects from even small amounts of the drug. Cats in particular are highly susceptible to the effects and can suffer red blood cell damage as a result.
  • Anti-anxiety medications –  Drugs like Ambien, Lunesta, and Xanax are designed to reduce anxiety and help people sleep better, but they can cause extreme agitation in dogs. Cats who ingest one of these medications can become lethargic, uncoordinated, and may suffer liver failure.  
  • ADD/ADHD medications – Adderall, Concentra, Ritalin, and similar medications contain a combination of stimulants (such as amphetamine and methylphenidate) that pose a serious risk to pets. Even a small amount can cause life-threatening seizures, tremors, elevated body temperature, and heart problems.
  • Blood pressure medications – Beta blockers like Tenormin, Toprol, and Coreg save human lives by treating high blood pressure, but pets who ingest these drugs experience a life-threatening drop in blood pressure and heart rate.
  • Thyroid hormones – If large amounts of human thyroid hormone drugs are consumed by a pet, they can experience muscle tremors, nervousness, increased panting, and aggression.
  • Cholesterol-lowering drugs – Statin use is extremely common in America. Fortunately, statin overdose in pets usually isn’t too serious. Typical side effects include mild vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Pet medications – Pets can easily overdose on medications that have been prescribed to them, such as parasite preventives and painkillers. These medications are often flavored to make them more enticing, which makes them even more tempting to pets.

Preventing the Worst

Accidental pet poisonings are one of the most common reasons pet owners seek emergency veterinary care. Follow these tips to keep your furry loved one safe:

  • Store all medications out of your pet’s reach. Do not leave pills in plastic baggies, as these are easily chewed through. If you store pills in a weekly pill divider, make sure this is kept in a place your pet can’t access (many pets find these plastic containers fun to chew on).
  • Pick up any dropped pills immediately before your pet has a chance to investigate. Never leave loose pills on the counter or other surfaces where they may be accidentally knocked on the floor.
  • Don’t store human medications near pet medications. It’s easy to confuse the two.
  • Backpacks and purses often contain medications, food scraps, and other items that pets find enticing. Hang up purses and backpacks as soon as you get home.
  • Never give your pet any medication, supplement, or home remedy without first consulting your veterinarian.

Please don’t hesitate to contact your veterinarian  with any questions or concerns regarding pets and medications. It’s the bet way to keep your pet safe!

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