Pets and pills don't mix: Top 10 medications vets get called about

April 20, 2015

A medication that does one thing for people does not necessarily do the same for our pets, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Although there are many medications used in both animals and people, the effects, doses needed, and other things can differ.

A pet can easily ingest dropped pills or may be given harmful human medications by an unknowing owner, causing illness, or even death. About one-quarter of all phone calls to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center are about human medications, the AVMA says. The center lists the 10 most common human-medication complaints they receive.

Here they are, in order based on the number of complaints:

1. Ibuprofen: Also sold as Advil and Motrin, this is the most common human drug 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: Also sold as Ultram, this is a pain reliever. Your veterinarian may prescribe it for your pet, but only at a dose that’s appropriate. 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: Also sold as Xanax, this 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: This 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 pets and causes elevated heart rate and body temperature, along with hyperactivity, tremors and seizures.

5. Zolpidem: Also sold as Ambien, this 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: Also sold as Klonopin, this drug 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: Also sold as Tylenol, acetaminophen 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 also can 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: Also sold as Aleve or Naprosyn, this 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: Also sold as Cymbalta, this drug is prescribed as an antidepressant and anti-anxiety agent. When ingested by pets it can cause agitation, vocalization, tremors and seizures.

10. Venlafaxine: Also sold as Effexor, venlafaxine is an antidepressant. For some unknown reason, cats love to eat the capsules. Ingestion can cause agitation, vocalization, tremors and seizures.

Although this may be the list of the medications about which the APCC receives the largest numbers of complaints, the AVMA warns that any human medication could pose a risk to your pets — not just these 10.

The veterinary medical group recommends keeping 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 counters or any place a pet can get to them (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;

— Always contact your veterinarian if your pets have ingested any medication not prescribed for them;

— Never give your medication (or any medications prescribed for a two-legged family member) to your pet without first consulting a veterinarian.

— Always keep the number for your veterinarian and the APCC handy in case of emergency.



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