Whether it is a well-intentioned mishap or unfortunate accident, many dogs are poisoned by human medications. The pet emergency hotline fields more than 45,000 calls involving prescription and over-the-counter human medications every year.
While humans take various medications to treat ailments, from headaches to sleep disturbances, many pet dogs are accidentally poisoned. Pillboxes and plastic baggies are enticing chew toys for many dogs, so while you might not think twice about it, there are a few simple steps you can take to prevent these types of accidents.
What Human Medications Should You Avoid for Your Canine Companion?
The pills in your medicine cabinet are intended for human consumption. While a few of them may be safe for your dogs, many can be very dangerous. And nearly all of them are dangerous if ingested in large enough quantities. Here are some common culprits to watch out for:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (e.g., Advil, Aleve)
- Acetaminophen (e.g. Tylenol)
- Antidepressants (e.g., Cymbalta, Prozac)
- ADD/ADHD Prescriptions (e.g., Ritalin)
- Sleep aids (e.g., Xanax, Ambien)
- Hormonal birth control (estrogen, progesterone)
- Blood pressure medications
- Thyroid hormones
- Cholesterol drugs (e.g., Crestor)
Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory painkillers like Ibuprofen (Advil) and Naproxen (Aleve) are toxic to dogs in any dose. These drugs work by inhibiting chemicals in the body that cause inflammation. Unfortunately, in dogs it also inhibits beneficial enzymes needed for gastrointestinal and kidney function.
Tylenol is another common over-the-counter painkiller common for minor aches and pains. But for dogs, this medicine can be toxic with little or no symptoms. Tylenol affects dogs in two ways; first, it damages the liver, responsible for managing chemical levels in the blood. Second, it interferes with the red blood cells’ ability to carry oxygen. Both of these conditions interfere with essential bodily processes and can lead to death.
Some dogs do take antidepressants under the care of a veterinarian, but things can turn tragic when they get ahold of human doses. This includes popular prescription antidepressants like Cymbalta, Lexapro, and Prozac. Many of these drugs cause neurological problems like noticeable incoordination or seizures. Others contain stimulants that can increase heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature to dangerous levels.
Many ADHD medications, like Ritalin, are strong stimulants and can cause seizures and heart problems in even small doses. The good news is that if exposure is caught early, most pets do recover with veterinary care. Symptoms like elevated body temperatures and high blood pressure can be treated clinically, and long-term organ damage is rare.