Can You Give Your Pet Human Medications?

The answer is yes and no depending on the medication, the dose, and your pet’s medical condition. Some human medications are extremely toxic to animals and should never be administered to your pet. Always use medications in your pet with caution and under the direction of your veterinarian. Keep medications out of the reach of your pet to avoid accidental ingestion or overdose.

Today, there was an article in the Wall Street Journal about the dangers of your pet getting into your medications.

 When Pills and Medications Get Into the Wrong Paws

Often pets will climb counters or scavenge pills that have fallen on the floor. Even pet medications, many of which are flavored to encourage the pet to take them, can cause a serious overdose if your pet gains access to them.

As a veterinarian, I have seen many cases where pets have gotten into medications left within their reach – a 4 month old puppy that ate a bottle of valium left in the owner’s purse, a 10 year old poodle that ingested a month’s supply of its flavored arthritis pain medication that was left on the kitchen counter, a pet skunk that ate two Advil left on a coffee table, just name a few. Unfortunately, these scenarios have resulted in very sick pets with extended, expensive hospital stays or have even proved fatal. Always treat medications as you would if there was a small child in the home. Keep them in childproof containers in closed cabinets well out of reach of even the most resourceful pet. You would be surprised what feats an animal can accomplish to gain access to a forbidden substance.

I have also seen many good-intentioned owners unknowingly poison their pets by giving them human medications that are toxic. The most common scenario – an owner who wants to provide some pain relief for a pet that has an injury or arthritis gives their pet a human pain medication such as ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol). Unfortunately, these medications are extremely toxic to animals and are frequently fatal. One Tylenol can kill a cat. NEVER give your pet a human pain medication!

Some human medications are safe and commonly used in pets. However, you should always consult your veterinarian for advice on which medications are appropriate for specific medical conditions and what dose is correct for your pet.

If your pet ingests a human medication not prescribed by your veterinarian or an overdose of any medication including pet medications, contact your veterinarian or animal poison control hotline immediately.

ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center

Pet Poison Helpline

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Top Ten Dangerous Foods for Your Pet

There are several common foods that are safe for people but can be hazardous for animals. From bouts of vomiting and diarrhea to more serious life-threatening conditions, the foods on this list should be avoided to prevent health problems for your pet. If your dog or cat does ingest one of these, contact your veterinarian or call a pet poison control hotline for more information on treatment recommendations.

  1. Grapes/Raisins – Ingestion of grapes or raisons can cause acute renal failure. Vomiting, diarrhea, and hyperactivity may be seen initially followed by anorexia, lethargy, and depression and sometimes death.
  2. Nuts – Nuts can cause toxic poisoning, a gastrointestinal obstruction requiring emergency surgery, or severe gastrointestinal upset such as vomiting and diarrhea. The most frequent culprits necessitating a visit to the veterinarian are walnuts and macadamia nuts.
  3. Onions/Garlic – Onions and garlic can cause hemolytic anemia, a condition in which red blood cells are destroyed. Signs include breathlessness, lethargy, vomiting, and diarrhea and may not appear for 2-4 days after ingestion. Even small amounts can be life-threatening. Be aware that many foods are prepared with onion and garlic that may not be readily obvious.
  4. Fatty Foods – Feeding table scraps is not recommended primarily because of the risk of pancreatitis or vomiting and diarrhea that is often associated with the ingestion of fatty foods. This can be serious and even life-threatening with some pets requiring hospitalization. Frequent table scraps can also lead to obesity.
  5. Chocolate – Chocolate contains theobromine and caffeine which are toxic to dogs and cats. These substances act as stimulants on the central nervous system and cardiovascular system. Signs include hyperactivity, tremors, high blood pressure, rapid heart rate, seizures, respiratory failure, and cardiac arrest.
  6. Caffeine – Pets can be exposed to caffeine in coffee and coffee grounds, tea and teabags, soda, energy drinks, and diet pills. Signs range from mild to serious and include hyper activity, restlessness, vomiting, elevated heart rate and blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, tremors, elevated body temperate, seizures, and death.
  7. Alcohol – Even a relatively small amount of alcohol can lead to toxicity. Alcohol can be found in beverages, but also pharmaceutical products such as medications, mouthwash, and perfumes. Alcohol toxicity can cause central nervous system signs (such as staggering, excitement, or decreased reflexes), behavioral changes (such as an increased need to urinate), depression, slow respiratory rate, and cardiac arrest.
  8. Unbaked dough – When ingested, the unbaked dough expands in the warm, moist environment of the stomach. The gas created from fermenting yeast can result in bloat or a twisted stomach, gastric dilation volvulus (GDV). Signs include vomiting, nonproductive retching, a distended stomach, an elevated heart rate, weakness, collapse, and death. Alcohol is also produced during yeast fermentation and is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream resulting in alcohol poisoning.
  9. Candy and chewing gum – Xylitol is a substance commonly found in sugar-free candy and chewing gum. It can cause a dangerous surge in insulin and result in extremely low blood sugar levels in dogs. This can result in weakness, lethargy, incoordination, vomiting, liver failure, seizures, coma, and death.
  10. Pits – Pits in certain fruits and vegetables, such as peaches and avocados, can become lodged in the gastrointestinal tract and cause a life-threatening obstruction requiring emergency surgery.

If your pet ingests any of the foods on this list, please contact your veterinarian or animal poison control center immediately for further instructions and treatment recommendations.

Pet Poison Helpline

ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center

Should you spay or neuter your pet?

Yes! There are many medical and behavioral benefits of spaying or neutering your dog or cat. And, it greatly helps reduce the number of unwanted animals in shelters. Spaying and neutering saves lives!

Neuter refers to the surgical sterilization of an animal that renders them in capable of reproducing. The term neuter refers to sterilization of females or males but is commonly used to refer to male castration. Removal of the testicles prevents testosterone and sperm production. Spay is the surgical sterilization of females. The ovaries and uterus are removed thereby preventing estrogen production and pregnancy.

Benefits of Spay and Neuter:

  • Prevents unplanned pregnancies. Birth control is one of the main reasons we spay and neuter our pets. Every year millions of animals are euthanized across the country because there are just too many and not enough homes. Even if you find a home for your dog’s puppies or cat’s kittens, those are homes that could have been filled by homeless animals, and the new owners may allow their pets to have more puppies and kittens keeping the problem growing.
  • Reduces cancer risk. Mammary (breast) cancer is relatively common in intact (unspayed) females. Spaying a dog before their first heat cycle virtually eliminates their risk of mammary cancer later in life. Spaying cats before their first heat cycle reduces their risk by about 90%. Risk increases significantly with each heat cycle an animal experiences. Therefore, it is important to spay early. In addition, spaying and neutering eliminates the risks of testicular, ovarian, and uterine cancers and greatly reduces the risk of prostate and rectal cancers.
  • Prevents life-threatening infections. “Pyometra” is a severe, life-threatening infection of the uterus that occurs commonly among older, unspayed dogs and cats. Spaying eliminates this risk.
  • Reduces spraying, urine marking (leg lifting), mounting, and the tendency to run away in search of a mate. Neutering also decreases urine odor which is especially important in male cats who have exceptionally pungent smelling urine and are prone to spraying when they are not neutered. Decreased roaming in dogs and cats reduces the chances of your pet getting lost or seriously injured (such as being hit by a car) when they leave home in search of a mate.
  • Reduces aggression. The elimination of testosterone reduces hormonally-induced aggression.
  • No “heat” cycle or false pregnancies. Intact females will have vaginal bleeding (spotting) during estrus. This is referred to as being “in heat”. Unspayed female cats will also cry incessantly and persistently try to escape to find a male. Unspayed female dogs may also experience false pregnancies.

When should you spay or neuter your dog or cat?

The best time to sterilize your pet is before six months of age. This has the greatest impact in preventing medical and behavioral problems associated with gender-specific hormones.

Common Spay/Neuter Myths:

  • MYTH: Spaying or neutering will calm a pet down.

TRUTH: Spaying or neutering does not alter personality. If a dog is energetic and hyperactive, it will be so after spay or neuter.

  • MYTH: A spayed or neutered dog will become fat and lazy.

TRUTH: Weight gain is the result of taking in more calories than what is burned off. If your pet gains weight it is because they are overfed.

  • MYTH: It is unnatural to deprive my pet of a sex life.

TRUTH: Animals have sex strictly to satisfy hormone-induced instincts, not for pleasure.

Spayed and neutered dogs and cats live healthier lives with less behavioral and medical problems and don’t contribute to the problem of pet overpopulation.