Your medicine cabinet is likely full of pills, capsules, and syrups that could be extremely harmful to your pets. Our friends at Pet Poison Helpline™ have indicated that close to half of the calls they receive involve ingestion of human medication. While some human medications might be safe for cats and dogs, many are not and it’s crucial that human medications are only administered to cats and dogs under veterinary direction to ensure the medication and dosage is pet-friendly.
The following list highlights the top 10 human medications ingested by pets according to the Pet Poison Helpline™ call history:
1. NSAIDs (e.g. Advil, Aleve and some types of Motrin)
Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) are the most commonly ingested medications, likely due to how often we humans use these pain relievers. A mere one or two pills can cause serious harm to a cat or dog. Depending on the size of the pet and how much medication is ingested, it could result in stomach and intestinal ulcers, or even kidney failure.
2. Acetaminophen (e.g. Tylenol)
Acetaminophen is another commonly found medication in many households. These pain meds are especially harmful to cats, resulting in red blood cell damage. Ingestion of Tylenol by dogs can lead to liver failure, as well as red blood cell damage, when large doses are ingested.
3. Antidepressants (e.g. Effexor, Cymbalta, Prozac, Lexapro)
Human antidepressants are used occasionally in pets, but should only be given under strict veterinary supervision. Overdoses of these medications can lead to serious neurological problems, and elevated heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature. Cats appear particularly drawn to Effexor and often eat the entire pill due to its palatable taste. Just one of these pills can cause serious poisoning.
4. ADD/ADHD medications (e.g. Concerta, Adderall, Ritalin)
The potent stimulants in Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder medications can cause life-threatening tremors, seizures, elevated body temperatures and heart issues. A small dosage can do big damage.
5. Benzodiazepines and sleep aids (e.g. Xanax, Klonopin, Ambien, Lunesta)
While humans generally experience reduced anxiety and improved sleep while on benzodiazepines, they may have the opposite effect on pets. Dogs may experience agitation, severe lethargy, incoordination and slowed breathing. Some benzodiazepines can cause liver damage if ingested by cats.
6. Birth control (e.g. estrogen, estradiol, progesterone)
Small doses of birth control pills generally don’t cause much trouble for pets; however, large doses of estrogen and estradiol can cause bone marrow suppression. Female pets that are intact are also at increased risk of side effects from estrogen poisoning.
7. ACE Inhibitors (e.g. Zestril, Altace)
Ingestion of ACE Inhibitors can cause low blood pressure, dizziness and weakness. However, as these medications are used for both cats and dogs, the risk of severe side effects are much less.
8. Beta-blockers (e.g. Tenormin, Toprol, Coreg)
Small doses of beta-blockers can lead to life-threateningly low blood pressure and a very slow heart rate.
9. Thyroid hormones (e.g. Armour desiccated thyroid, Synthroid)
Many pets, especially dogs, are regularly treated for an underactive thyroid. While the same drugs are used in humans and dogs, dogs require a much higher dose than humans so they generally cause little to no risk if ingested by a pet. That being said, large acute overdoses in cats and dogs can cause muscle tremors, nervousness, panting, a rapid heart rate and aggression.
10. Cholesterol lowering agents (e.g. Lipitor, Zocor, Crestor)
Ingestion of these medications by pets may cause mild vomiting or diarrhea, but serious side effects from these drugs comes from long-term use, not a one-time mix up.
Although many prescription drugs are dispensed in child-proof containers, such containers aren't necessarily pet-proof. Very often over-the-counter drugs are packaged in foil and paper which are easy prey for your pet. Please don't leave your medications on the counter where inquisitive minds can get their paws on them. Keep them safely in a cupboard at all times.
If your pet has ingested a human over-the-counter or prescription medication, please call your veterinarian or the Pet Poison Helpline. If you have coverage with Pets Plus Us, your call is free as part of your Blue Ribbon Benefits. Refer to Guide for the phone number or call us at 1-800-364-8422.
If you don’t have Pets Plus Us pet insurance coverage, you can contact the Pet Poison Helpline at 1-800-213-6680 with any questions or concerns. Please be aware there is a $49.00USD/per case fee but it may save your pet’s life!