I was reading a recent post on the Pet Poison Helpline (PPH) regarding the dangers of human medications and our pets.  The report stated approximately 50% of the calls the Pet Poison Helpline receives are from concerned pet owners who believe their pet ingested one or more of their personal medications.  This does happen.  I have seen many patients over the years for this emergency. 

Here is a list of the top five medications as reported by the PPH:

1) NSAID’S (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories such as Advil, Aleve, Motrin).  These products contain ibuprofen and naproxen.  Dogs, cats, birds and other small mammals (ferrets, gerbils and hamsters) may develop serious stomach and intestinal ulcers as well as kidney failure.  

2) Acetaminophen (Tylenol). 
This popular NSAID is especially dangerous for cats.  In fact, one regular strength tablet of acetaminophen may cause damage to a cat’s red blood cells, limiting their ability to carry oxygen. In dogs, acetaminophen leads to liver failure and, in large doses, red blood cell damage.

3) Antidepressants (Effexor, Cymbalta, Prozac, Lexapro).  
It is true that these antidepressant drugs are occasionally used in pets however overdoses can lead to serious neurological problems such as sedation, incoordination, tremors and seizures. Some antidepressants also have a stimulant effect leading to a dangerously elevated heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature. Pets, especially cats, seem to enjoy the taste of Effexor and often eat the entire pill. Unfortunately, just one pill can cause serious poisoning.

4) ADD/ADHD medications (Concerta, Adderall, Ritalin)
Medications used to treat Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder contain potent stimulants such as amphetamines and methylphenidate. Even minimal ingestions of these medications by pets can cause life-threatening tremors, seizures, elevated body temperatures and heart problems.

5) Benzodiazepines and sleep aids (Xanax, Klonopin, Ambien, Lunesta)
These medications are designed to reduce anxiety and help people sleep better. However, in pets, they may have the opposite effect. About half of the dogs who ingest sleep aids become agitated instead of sedate. In addition, these drugs may cause severe lethargy, incoordination (including walking “drunk”), and slowed breathing in pets. In cats, some forms of benzodiazepines can cause liver failure when ingested.

Important things to remember! 

*Prescription and over the counter (OTC) medications can both cause serious health issues for our pets.  Do not feel one is less serious than the other.  The unique metabolism of different species can cause problems not seen in people. 

*Size matters.  A medication dose safe for humans is many times an overdose for pets.

*Time matters.  If you suspect your pet ingested any medications contact your veterinarian or call the Pet Poison Helpline or ASPCA Poison Control immediately.
*Getting the medication out of the body, usually by induced vomiting at the vet’s office, should be done within 1-2 hours after ingestion.  After the first few hours the medication will absorb into the bloodstream and possibly start to cause problems.  Taking a wait and see approach is not recommended as this may result in a life-threatening toxicity in addition to increased cost of care. 
This information can be lifesaving, please share with your friends and family.

Take care and please keep those meds out of reach for not only children but for pets as well.
Important Phone Numbers:

Pet Poison Helpline: (24/7) 1-855-764-7661
ASPCA Poison Control: (24/7) 1-888-426-4435

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