The Overlooked Killer on your Nightstand: Human Medications are Toxic to our Pets

The Animal Poison Control hotline gets approximately 90,000 calls per year relating to an animal that has consumed medication. Whether it’s a dropped pill on the floor or a nosy puppy that chewed into your purse, our prescriptions and OTC’s can be toxic to our pets. Even those pills that we also prescribe to pets can be fatal if the wrong dose is given. Here are a few of the most commonly consumed meds that are dangerous to our dogs and cats.

  1. Ibuprofen (Motrin) – This OTC pain med is in every household, and is carried in many bags. It often has a sweet outer coating making it easier to swallow for humans, but tasting like an M&M for pets. Ibuprofen can cause ulcers and kidney problems in our pets.
  2. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) – Too much of this common fever reducer/pain pill can damage the red blood cells in an animal, especially cats. If the red blood cells aren’t carrying oxygen to the body correctly, liver damage and cell death can occur. It is often in children’s medicine, meaning it’s a sweetly flavored chew or liquid (appealing to our pets)!
  3. Naproxen (Aleve) – Animals are very sensitive to this pain medication. Even a small amount can cause kidney failure and ulcers throughout the digestive tract.
  4. Blood pressure and heart medications – Prescription drugs like beta-blockers and ACE inhibitors are given to humans to reduce blood pressure and treat heart disease. It only takes a small amount of these potent drugs to cause an unsafe drop in blood pressure or cause your pet to have cardiac arrest.
  5. Effexor, Celexa, Prozac, and other anti-depressants – Whether you are taking them for depression, sleeping problems, or other reasons, cats seem to love these drugs (especially Effexor, for reasons unknown). However, they can cause a variety of symptoms in animals, including agitation, tremors, and seizures.
  6. Adderall – This medication is used to treat those with diagnosed attention problems, but is often bought and sold illegally, especially in young adults. It can be fatal to pets, causing an unsafe increase in heart rate and body temperature, and also tremors and seizures. Many families don’t realize that Adderall is even in their household.
  7. Pseudoephedrine (decongestant) – This drug is often included in cold and allergy medications and can be toxic to animals, even in small amounts. Watch out for things like NyQuil that may have a sweet smell to your pets, but can cause an increase in blood pressure, heart rate, body temperature, and seizures.
  8. Anti-anxiety drugs or sleeping pills – These are often left on bedside tables or illegally bought and sold. They can cause a rapid and sudden decrease in blood pressure in animals, and often pets are found collapsed and unconscious without warning.
  9. Diabetic drugs – These can cause an unsafe drop in blood sugar in animals, which can be fatal.

If you think your pet has ingested a medication (pills missing off the counter, chewed up bottle, etc), call a veterinary clinic right away. Do not wait for symptoms to develop if you have reason to believe they have consumed something. Also call your vet if you notice anything unusual about your dog or cat (tremors, vomiting, lethargy, seizures, etc). Often they have found a loose pill or two without us even knowing.

So what can you do to prevent your animals from consuming these dangerous substances? Keep them away! Pills should be in the bottle or a hard case, and the container placed out of reach of animals. I have personally seen a dog chew through a plastic pill bottle and eat the vitamins inside, so closing the cap is often not enough. Hang purses and bags up or keep them out of reach so no animals go digging through them. Never give your pet medication without consulting a vet first, and keep the pet meds separate from the human ones. Also be aware that while an animal may be well-behaved at home with you there, they may get bored or anxious while you are away, and get into substances they normally would not. Be sure to pet-proof your home extra if you are going to be gone. By taking precautions and storing medications safely, you could prevent major illness or accident from happening to your beloved furry friend. Sources: The Pet Poison Helpline, The American Veterinary Medical Association, Animal Poison Control, www.healthypets.mercola.com, www.pets.webmd.com