A couple of years ago I heard the sad tale of a teenager who spilled a bottle of ibuprofen on the floor. She diligently picked up all of the pills, then tossed them straight into the trash without putting them back into the bottle first. The family cat got into the trash, ate some of the pills and before the vet could intervene, was dead within a few hours.
It’s so easy to leave medications were animals can get to them, or even to forget that you already gave Fluffy an anti-depressant just before Fourth of July fireworks begin and give him another one accidentally (or a well-meaning family member does). Awareness of the seriousness of a drug overdose for pets may help prompt safety-thinking in the home that saves a life. This list from AVMA (American Veterinary Medicine Association) may help to shed some light on an unpleasant subject. As with D3 poisoning, take the animal immediately to the vet, along with the prescription package (dosage may provide important in diagnosis and appropriate treatment.)
The APCC provided us with the 10 most common human medication complaints they receive. Here they are, in order based on the number of complaints:
1. Ibuprofen – Ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®) is the most common human medication ingested by pets. Many brands have a sweet outer coating that makes it appealing to pets (think “M&M,” but a potentially deadly one). Ibuprofen can cause stomach ulcers and kidney failure.
2. Tramadol – Tramadol (Ultram®) is a pain reliever. Your veterinarian may prescribe it for your pet, but only at a dose that’s appropriate for your pet – never give your medication to your pet without first consulting your veterinarian! Too much tramadol can cause sedation or agitation, wobbliness, disorientation, vomiting, tremors and possibly seizures.
3. Alprazolam – Alprazolam (Xanax®) is prescribed as an anti-anxiety medication and a sleep-aid. Most pets that ingest alprazolam can become sleepy and wobbly; however a few will become very agitated instead. These pills are commonly ingested by pets as people put them out on the nightstand so they remember to take them. Large doses of alprazolam can drop the blood pressure and could cause weakness or collapse.
4. Adderall® – Adderall® is a combination of four different amphetamines and is used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in children. This medication doesn’t have the same effect in pets as it does in people; it acts as a stimulant in our pets and causes elevated heart rate and body temperature, along with hyperactivity, tremors and seizures.
5. Zolpidem – Zolpidem (Ambien®) is a sleep-aid for people. Pets commonly eat pills left on the bedside table. Zolpidem may make cats wobbly and sleepy, but most pets become very agitated and develop elevated heart rates.
6. Clonazepam – Clonazepam (Klonopin®) is used as an anticonvulsant and anti-anxiety medication. It is sometimes also prescribed as a sleep-aid. When animals ingest clonazepam they can become sleep and wobbly. Too much clonazepam can lower the blood pressure, leading to weakness or collapse.
7. Acetaminophen – Acetaminophen (Tylenol®) is a very common pain killer found in most households. Cats are extremely sensitive to acetaminophen, but dogs can be affected too. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage. It can also cause damage to your pet’s red blood cells so that the cells are unable to carry oxygen – like your body, your pet’s body needs oxygen to survive.
8. Naproxen – Naproxen (Aleve®, Naprosyn®) is an over-the-counter pain reliever. Dogs and cats are very sensitive to naproxen and even small amounts can cause stomach ulcers and kidney failure.
9. Duloxetine – Duloxetine (Cymbalta®) is prescribed as an antidepressant and anti-anxiety agent. When ingested by pets it can cause agitation, vocalization, tremors and seizures.
10. Venlafaxine – Venlafaxine (Effexor®) is an antidepressant. For some unknown reason, cats love to eat the capsules. Ingestion can cause agitation, vocalization, tremors and seizures.
As you can tell from this list, a medication that does one thing for people does not necessarily do the same for our pets. And although this may be the list of the medications about which the APCC receives the largest numbers of complaints, remember that any human medication could pose a risk to your pets – not just these 10.
You can keep your pets safe by following simple common sense guidelines:
• Always keep human medications away from pets unless you are specifically instructed by a veterinarian to give the medication;
• Do not leave pills sitting on the counter or any place a pet can get to them;
• Do not leave pill bottles within reach of pets (You’ll be surprised how fast your dog can chew through a pill bottle.);
• If you’re taking medications out of the bottle and you drop any of it, pick it up immediately so you know your pet won’t be able to eat it, seal it in something pet proof and dispose of safely (do not flush down the toilet!);
• Never give your medication (or any medications prescribed for a two-legged family member) to your pet without first consulting a veterinarian.