Unlike popular belief, you should take precautions while administering human drugs to dogs. Most drugs work wonders in both humans and animals, but that doesn't mean you should start giving your pills to your dog.
Did you know, nearly 50% of all calls received by Pet Poison Helpline involve human medications – both over-the-counter and prescription.
Why does medicine work differently on humans and animals?
Yes, most drugs meant for humans contain compounds that create altering effects when given to dogs
Pets like dogs and cats respond to human medication differently, mainly because of two reasons:
The safe dose of a medication is expressed as “mg/kg” – in other words, the active ingredient per kg of body weight. So, the maximum safe dose of a substance for a 70kg human will be about 20 times higher than it is for a 3.5kg cat.
Humans are generally better at dealing with poisons than any other mammal species. A useful rule of thumb used by medical and veterinary toxicologists is that “if it’s poisonous to humans, it’ll kill pets; but if it’s safe for humans… it may still kill animals.”
10 Human Medications Harmful to Pets
Here is a list of ten human medications that are severely harmful to pets. Ingesting these medicines can cause fatal health deterioration or even death.
NSAIDs stand for Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Examples of NSAIDs include aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, and indomethacin. These drugs are readily available in many households. People use these to treat pain, inflammation, and fever in people.
Ingesting even one or two pills can cause serious harm to dogs, including stomach and intestinal ulcers. In cases of overdose, renal damage can occur. When ingested orally, most achieve peak concentrations in the blood within three hours.
The most commonly seen side effects of these medications are gastrointestinal irritation and damage to the GI tract.
Acetaminophen includes Paracetamol and Tylenol that are used for the relief of fever and aches and pains in humans. However, it may lead to liver failure and red blood cell damage in dogs and cats.
Acetaminophen poisoning in dogs can lead to liver injury or even liver failure. The tell-tale signs of Acetaminophen poising include lethargy, loss of appetite, belly pain, jaundice, and swelling of the face and paws.
Antidepressants are medications used to treat the major depressive disorder, anxiety, and chronic pain conditions in humans. Some commonly used antidepressant for dogs include Buspirone, Fluoxetine, and Clomipramine. However, excess ingestion of antidepressants can cause serotonin syndrome. It can lead to serious neurological problems such as sedation, incoordination, tremors, and seizures.
The serotonin syndrome sign usually comes on rapids in dogs, anywhere from 10 min to 4 hours. Veterinarians will generally pump out or induce vomiting to remove toxins.
ADD/ADHD medications are prescribed to treat Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Adderall, Concerta, Dexedrine, Eveko, Focalin XR are a few of the popular ADHD prescribed drugs.
It contains potent stimulants such as amphetamines and methylphenidate that doesn't do well to dogs. Even minimal ingestions of these medications can trigger a higher heart rate, high blood pressure, elevated body temperature, and life-threatening symptoms like tremors and seizures.
Benzodiazepines (Sleep Aids)
Benzodiazepines are prescribed to reduce anxiety and help people sleep. Common sedatives include Xanax, alprazolam, chlordiazepoxide, clonazepam, etc. It induces sedation to help reduce anxiety, panic attacks, depression, insomnia, seizures, etc.
When a dog ingests Benzodiazepines, it can cause severe sedation, in-coordination, aggression, agitation, nausea, and vomiting. In severe cases, it can trigger respiratory and cardiovascular depression.
A birth control pill is administered to prevent pregnancy in women. Most birth controls are combination pills containing a mix of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. Because of its packaging, dogs often find it irresistible. Small dosages typically do not cause any harm to dogs. However, large ingestions can trigger bone marrow suppression.
ACE Inhibitors like Zetril, Benazepril, Captopril, and Altace are commonly used to treat high blood pressure. It's also used in dogs to treat chronic CHF. However, when ingested in a higher amount, it can cause low blood pressure, dizziness, and dogs' weakness. The tell-take signs of ACE inhibitors poising include weakness, stumbling, and dropping blood pressure level.
Beta-blockers are used to treat high blood pressure. It can cause your heart to beat more slowly and with less force, which lowers blood pressure. Atenolol is a common beta-blocker medication used to treat certain heart disease types and high blood pressure in dogs. However, you should be careful about overdosing your dog with beta-blocker as it can cause a severe drop in blood pressure and heart rate.
Interestingly, the dose of thyroid hormone needed to treat dogs is much higher than a person’s dose. If a dog accidentally ingests thyroid hormones pill at home, it rarely results in problems. However, large acute overdoses can often trigger muscle tremors, nervousness, panting, a rapid heart rate, and aggression. Levothyroxine, Synthroid, and Armour desiccated thyroid are few examples of thyroid hormones.
Cholesterol-lowering pills like Lipitor, Zocor, and Crestor can cause mild ailments in dogs, such as vomiting and diarrhea. The poising can be treated by taking it to the vet to remove the toxins from the stomach.
How to Prevent Accidental Poising in Dogs?
A recent article in the Veterinary Times reported that almost 10% of pet owners admitted using human medicines to treat their pets.
It’s also easy for dogs to accidentally ingest human pills. The medicine bottles lying around the house, such as tables and open countertop, make it accessible for dogs’ reach. Here is how you can prevent accidental medication poising in dogs.
- Never leave loose pills in a plastic bag. The bags are too easy to chew into.
- Keep the pill and pill container in a cabinet out of reach of dogs.
- Never store your own medications near your pet's medications.
- Keep the contact detail of Pet Poison Helpline and your veterinarian with you at all times.
Get in touch with Urban Pet Hospital & Resort, the best pet hospital in Des Moines, to learn more about preventing pet poisoning.