Every year, the Pet Poison Helpline receives numerous calls, day and night, with questions regarding possible toxic substance ingestion by pets. Nearly 50% of these involve ingestion of human medications.
Unfortunately, both prescription and over-the-counter medications can be very toxic to pets, and should be kept out of reach and never intentionally given to our pets. While there are some medications prescribed to both animals and people, the uses, doses, and side effects can be extremely different and even result in illness or the death of your pet.
Here are 10 human medications that are poisonous to your pets.
1. NSAIDs (eg., Advil, Aleve, Motrin)
NSAIDs can be very toxic to our pets, causing gastrointestinal ulcers and kidney failure.
2. Acetaminophen (i.e., Tylenol)
Acetaminophen is extremely toxic to cats, with even just one tablet causing damage to their red blood cells and limiting their ability to carry oxygen. In dogs, inappropriate dosing can cause liver failure and red blood cell damage.
3. Antidepressants (eg., Effexor, Cymbalta, Prozac, Lexapro)
Pet overdoses on antidepressants can cause neurologic problems, such as sedation, tremors, and seizures. Some of these medications may also cause elevated heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature.
4. ADD/ADHD Medications (eg., Concerta, Adderall, Ritalin)
Even a small ingestion of ADD or ADHD medication may cause life-threatening tremors, seizures, heart problems, and body temperatures.
5. Benzodiazepines and Sleep Aids (eg., Xanax, Klonopin, Ambien, Lunesta)
Many pets that ingest benzodiazepines and other sleep aids become agitated. Others may become uncoordinated with slowed breathing. In cats, some of these medications cause liver failure.
6. Birth Control (Estrogen, Estradiol, and Progesterone)
Ingesting a large amount of birth control may cause bone marrow suppression in a pet.
7. Beta Blockers (eg., Tenormin, Toprol, Coreg)
Overdoses of beta blockers may cause life-threatening drops in blood pressure and heart rate.
8. ACE Inhibitors (eg., Zestril, Altace)
This category of medication is generally quite safe, although overdoses may cause low blood pressure and weakness. However, if your pet has kidney failure or heart disease and ingests these medications, please contact your veterinarian.
9. Thyroid Hormones (eg., Armour desiccated thyroid, Synthroid)
Large overdoses of thyroid hormones can cause tremors, nervousness, elevated heart rate, and aggression.
10. Cholesterol Lowering Agents (eg., Lipitor, Zocor, Crestor)
Most "statin" ingestion only cause vomiting and diarrhea.
How can you prevent your pet from ingesting human medications? Here are a few tips:
- Never keep pills in Ziploc bags that are easy to chew. Make sure any house guests do the same.
- Store all medications in a cabinet that is out of reach of your pet.
- Never store your pet's medications near your own. It's very easy to accidentally give your own medications to your pet.
- Keep your purse on a hanger. Curious pets love to explore purses!
If you suspect your pet has ingested any of these toxins, please note the amount ingested and contact your veterinarian, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (888-426-4435), or the Pet Poison Helpline (800-213-6680).