Let’s face it, pets are curious, sneaky and learn with their mouths. And given the beautiful shiny surface, sweet taste of the sugary coating and great crunchy texture of pill packets…it’s often too much to resist.
Here are some of the most common human medications we see ingested by pets.
We’re talking the full gamut here, from Panadol, Neurofen and Aspirin to Endone, and everything in between. Human strength anti-inflammatory medications like Panadol, Aspirin and Nurofen are highly toxic to dogs and cats in standard human doses. These medications can cause a variety of concerns including gastrointestinal upset and ulceration, kidney and liver damage, and damage to red blood cells in dogs. Although aspirin and paracetomol may be prescribed to your pet, it is prescribed at a much lower dose rate that needs to be prescribed and managed by your veterinarian.
Cold and flu tablets
These may contain painkillers, as listed above, and they can also contain pseudoephedrine which can cause your pet’s heart to race and blood pressure to rise, often resulting in seizures. Some of these medications also contain antihistamines and codeine which can cause sedation in pets.
Antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication
While these antidepressant medications are occasionally prescribed to pets, overdoses can lead to serious neurological problems such as incoordination, tremors, sedation and seizures. Some antidepressants can also cause the development of a dangerously elevated heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature.
Blood pressure medication
Even a small amount of these medications can be toxic to pets, with varied effects seen in pets after ingestion. Some medications such as ACE inhibitors cause low blood pressure, leading to incoordination and weakness; while life threatening reductions in blood pressure and heart rate occur with the ingestion of medications such as beta blockers.
These medications contain strong stimulants such as amphetamines which can also be highly lethal to pets. ADHD medication can cause life threatening tremors and seizures, increased temperatures and cardiac issues.
Sleeping aids prescribed to people can have similar effects in pets but can also have the opposite effect in pets. These medications cause a range of issues such as sedation, lethargy, incoordination and even reduced breathing rates or hyperactivity and agitation. If medications such as benzodiazepines are ingested by cats they can also cause liver problems.
While humans take vitamins for their health benefits, these medications can cause problems for pets should they accidentally ingest them. The chewable varieties are particularly attractive to pets and they often contain the sweetener, xylitol, which can lead to low blood sugar, seizures and even liver failure in some cases. Vitamins can also include vitamin D, iron and calcium, all of which can be toxic to pets in high doses and require immediate treatment.
Essential oils have had a resurgence in their popularity but it is important to remember that these can cause reactions and even seizures in dogs. Common toxicities include tea tree, clove, garlic, cinnamon, citrus, rosemary, thyme, pennyroyal, pine and wintergreen. This is not an exhaustive list, and since each pet can react differently to a toxin, it is best to keep essential oils locked away.
If you think your pet has ingested any of these or any other toxins, please seek veterinary advice and attention immediately.