Wednesday, January 20, 2010

People drugs that are NOT safe for pets!

Last time we took a look at people drugs that are safe to use for our pets. Now let's look at people medicines that are NOT safe for pets.

There are many things that are dangerous to our pets, from food to plants, cleaners and household supplies and, of course, people medicines. There are some human medicines that work great for pets, given the proper dosage, but there are others that can cause serious harm or even death.

People have a tendency to leave medicines around, especially if they don't have children to worry about getting into them. Pets, however, are curious and can get into things, too. For their protection and safety, always keep medicines and prescriptions out of their reach. Child proof caps do not deter a dog who is determined to chew his way into a bottle.

Let's take a look at some of the most common people medicines that are dangerous to our pets (based in information from the ASPCA).

  • NSAIDS: NSAIDS are non-steriodal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofin or naproxen (Advil, Motrin, Aleve, etc.). These medicines are safe for people, but even one or two pills can cause serious harm to a pet. Serious stomach and intestinal ulcers may result, as well as kidney failure.
  • Acetaminophen: Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is very dangerous to pets. It is very safe for humans, even children, but this is not the case for pets....especially cats. Just one regular strength tablet can damage a cat's red blood cells. In dogs, ingesting acetaminophen leads to liver failure. Larger doses will damage their red blood cells.
  • Antidepressants: Antidepressants (Effexor, Cymbalta, Prozac, Zoloft, Lexapro, etc.) can cause vomiting and lethargy. Other reactions include lack of coordination, dangerously elevated heart rate, high blood pressure, increased body temperature, disorientation, tremors, seizures, or agitation. Just one pill can cause serious poisoning. Some antidepressants are used by vets, but only certain ones in controlled dosages.
  • ADD/ADHD medications: These medications (Adderall, Ritalin, Concerta) contain potent stimulants (amphetamines and methylphenodate) which can be deadly for pets. These drugs can dangerously elevate their heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature. Even minimal ingestion of these drugs can be life-threatening. Other symptoms include tremors and seizures.
  • Anti-Anxiety drugs/sleep aids: These drugs include Xanax, Klonopin, Ambien and Lunesta. In humans these drugs are used to reduce anxiety and promote sleep. In pets, however, they may have the opposite effect. About half the dogs that ingest sleep aids become agitated rather than sedated. Other symptoms may include severe lethargy, loss of coordination (appearing to be drunk), and slowed breathing. In cats, some forms of these drugs can cause liver failure.
  • Fluorouracil: Fluorouacil is an anti-cancer drug used to topically treat minor skin cancers and some other conditions. It has been shown to be rapidly fatal in dogs. Symptoms include severe vomiting, seizures, and cardiac arrest. Even very small amounts, such as traces left on discarded cotton swabs that were used to apply the medication, can cause death when ingested.
  • Pseudophedrine: Pseudophedrine is a popular decongestant found in most sinus and cold medicines. If accidentally ingested by pets it can act like s stimulant. Symptoms include elevated heart rate, raised blood pressure and body temperature, and seizures.
  • Anti-diabetics: Drugs used to treat diabetes (Metformin, insulin, glipizide, glyburide) can cause a major drop in blood sugar levels. Signs of ingestion include disorientation, lack of coordination, and seizures.
  • Baclofen: Baclofen is a muscle relaxer that can impair the central nervous system in pets. Symptoms of ingestion can include disorientation, vocalization, severe depression, seizures, coma, or even death.
  • Vitamin D: Vitamin D derivatives (calcitriol, calcipotriene) can cause life-threatening spikes in blood calcium levels in pets. Symptoms, which include vomiting, loss of apetite, increased urination, and thirst due to kidney failure, may not manifest themselves until more than 24 hours after ingestion.
  • Beta-Blockers: These medicines (Tenormin, Toprol, Coreg) are used to treat high blood pressure. Even small ingestions can cause serious poisoning in pets. Symptoms include a life-threatening drop in blood pressure and very slow heart rate.
Some tips for keeping your pets safe from accidental ingestion of medicines (from Dr. Justine Lee and Dr. Ahna Brutlag at Pet Poison Helpline):

Always keep medications out of reach and never administer medication to a pet without first consulting with your vet.

Never leave loose pills in a plastic Ziploc bag. The bags are too easy to chew into. Make sure visiting house guests do the same, keeping their medications up out of reach as well.

If you use one of the weekly medication containers, make sure to store it in a cabinet or out of reach of pets.

Never store your medications near your pet's medications. It is very easy to accidentally give your medicine to your pet instead of their own, especially if the pills look similar.

Hang your purse up out of reach of your pet. Pets are curious and may explore the contents, including any medications that may be in there.

Realize that while a medication may be safe for children, it may not be safe for animals. Pets metabolize medications very differently from people. Even seemingly benign over-the-counter or herbal medications may cause serious poisoning in pets.

Finally, if your pet has ingested a human drug of any sort, please call your veterinarian or poison helpline immediately.

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