If your dog or cat gets into the medications you have in your house, it could lead to deadly consequences. But there are things you can do to help protect your pet, such as knowing the signs and what to do in case of a poison emergency.
An Ongoing Problem
Year after year, human medications have topped the list of toxins most commonly ingested by pets according to the ASPCA® Animal Poison Control Center (APCC). Interestingly, over-the-counter (OTC) medications, including herbal and other natural supplements, moved ahead of prescription medications to take the top spot for the first time in 2015. Here are more facts on human meds* from the APCC:
- There were over 28,500 cases reported in 2015 involving OTC medications.
- These cases encompassed almost 7,000 products, making this a large category.
- Prescription medications represented nearly 16% of all cases the APCC handled in 2015.
- The types of medications in these cases tended to match up with the most commonly prescribed medications.
The APCC’s list of common pet toxins also included insecticides, harmful human foods, household items (including cleaning products, fire logs, and paint), veterinary medications, chocolate, and plants. See the full list in the APCC’s announcement and learn more about common pet hazards at 101 Thing You Didn’t Know Could Harm Your Pet.
Can I give my dog Tylenol for pain?
Before we dive into a list of specific pet toxins, I thought it would be good to take a minute to address this frequently asked question. Never give your dog Tylenol or any other brand of acetaminophen unless prescribed by your veterinarian. Safe dosage amounts for dogs can vary and they are different than those recommended for humans. Too much of this medication can cause liver damage and even lead to liver failure for your dog.
Tylenol can be even more dangerous to cats since they lack the proteins needed to help the liver metabolize this drug. In fact, you should never give your pet any kind of medication without the advice and guidance of a veterinarian.
10 Top Human Meds to Keep Away from Pets
This is a partial list of human medications that have a moderate to severe level of toxicity to pets according to the APCC. If your pet ingests any of these medications, you should seek veterinary care as soon as possible. Medications with severe toxicity are life-threatening, so don’t take any chances by hesitating to get help.
1. Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
As mentioned, Tylenol can help relieve our headaches and lower fevers, but it can have severe side effects for your pet. These include vomiting, chocolate-colored gums, trouble breathing, and liver failure.
2. Albuterol (Asthma Medication)
If you or someone you know has asthma, you’re probably familiar with inhalers that contain Albuterol. Keep inhalers out of paw’s reach since this drug can cause rapid heart rate, agitation followed by lethargy, and weakness if ingested by your pet.
Aspirin is categorized as having mild to moderate toxicity by the APCC, but it is worth mentioning since it is such a commonly used over-the-counter human med. It can cause vomiting, dark or bloody stool, lethargy, stomach ulcers, and liver failure in pets.
4. Benzalkonium Chloride
You might not recognize the name of this substance, but it is commonly used as a preservative in eye drops. If your pet ingests it, they could suffer from increased salivation, vomiting, oral sores, and muscle weakness.
Dextroamphetamine is a nervous system stimulant that is used in drugs like Aderol to treat ADHD. If you have Aderol in your house, be sure you store it safely away from your pet since it can result in hyperactivity, high heart rate, tremors, and seizures.
This substance can be found in anti-depressant drugs, including Prozac and Sarafem. It can cause agitation, elevated heart rate, drunkenness, and tremors in pets.
7. Ibuprofen (Advil)
Advil can harm your pet with serious symptoms, including vomiting, dark or bloody stool, lethargy, stomach ulcers, kidney failure, coma, and seizures.
8. Naproxen (Aleve)
Naproxen, which can be found in brands like Aleve and Anaprox, helps reduce swelling and pain for people and can be useful for treating arthritis. However, it is severely toxic to pets and can lead to kidney failure. Symptoms include vomiting, lethargy, and bloody stool.
9. Pseudoephedrine (Sudafed)
Those of us with colds or allergies might reach for the Sudafed to get some little relief from runny or stuffy noses. Unfortunately, if our pets ingest this drug, it can cause agitation, elevated heart rate, tremors, and seizures.
10. Warfarin (Coumadin)
This is another drug that has severe toxicity to pets. It’s used to treat blood clots in people, but it can result in pale gums, internal bleeding, lethargy, panting, and weakness if swallowed by pets.
For an extensive list of pet toxins, especially for dogs, cats, horses, and birds, you can download the APCC’s free mobile app for your iPhone or Android. This app gives you quick access to the signs your pet has ingested something harmful and enables you to call the APCC’s pet poison hotline with a simple tap.
About the Symptoms
As you can see from our list of common toxic medications, the symptoms of poisoning can vary depending on the drug ingested. The severity of the situation will also be affected by the size, age, and overall health of your pet. In some cases, your pet might only have minor symptoms, like an upset tummy. In others, poison ingestion can lead to seizures, coma, and even death.
Where to Get Help
If you suspect your pet has been exposed to a harmful substance, you should call your veterinarian or the APCC at 1-888-426-4435 immediately. The APCC is staffed with trained experts, who have handled over 2 million cases! A $65 consultation fee may apply when you call, but a portion of that is covered if you have an ASPCA Pet Health Insurance plan.
Please don’t try to treat your pet without professional medical advice. You could get hurt or accidentally injure your pet. You should also handle your pet carefully. Even the sweetest pet can scratch or bite when they’re upset or in pain. In addition, do your best to remain calm, so you can think clearly and focus on getting help for your pet.
5 Tips to Prevent Pet Poisoning
There are precautions you can take to help avoid a pet poison emergency in your home:
- Keep medication bottles securely closed so your pet can’t spill them.
- Don’t leave medications on low nightstands or countertops where a curious pet could get at them.
- If you spill liquid medicine, clean it up carefully as soon as you can.
- The same goes for pills dropped on the floor. Make sure you pick them all up right away.
- Never give your dog or cat any kind of medication without consulting your veterinarian first.
Of course, you can’t completely protect your pet from ingesting a harmful substance. However, you can enroll in an ASPCA Pet Health Insurance plan to get reimbursed for the costs of care. Plans can cover hospitalization, IV fluid therapy, medications, and other treatments that might be needed in a poison emergency. Knowing you have coverage can help take the financial worry out of a stressful situation.