What you need to know about medicine and your pets

When you think of pets getting poisoned, you may think of antifreeze and rodent bait, and those are serious threats, but you may not know that many calls to poison hotlines involve pets that have been exposed to medications that are intended for human use.

A report recently released by the Pet Poison Hotline, listed the top medications most frequently ingested by pets. Now, accidents can happen and pets can certainly get into medications belonging to their family members, but this list also includes medications that well-meaning people gave to their pets, and the awful consequences afterward.

Topping the list was a category called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. These are pain medications for conditions like arthritis. Examples include Advil, Motrin, Tylenol and Aleve. There is a wide margin of safety for many of these medications in people, but just one dose in pets can cause severe stomach ulcers. In cats, the ingredient of Tylenol causes a fatal blood disorder.

The next most common medication poisoning is Antidepressants. This category includes names like Effexor, Cymbalta, Prozac, and Lexapro. While some of these antidepressant drugs are occasionally used in pets, overdoses can lead to serious neurological problems such as sedation, incoordination, tremors and seizures. Some antidepressants also have a stimulant effect leading to a dangerously elevated heart rate and blood pressure.

Cats seem to enjoy the taste of Effexor and often eat the entire pill. Unfortunately, just one pill can cause serious poisoning.

The poisoning list also includes ADHD medications like Concerta, Adderall and Ritalin, which are potent stimulants. Also on the list were sleep aids, some of which are known to cause liver failure in cats. Birth control medications containing estrogen can be toxic to the bone marrow of pets.

Never leave loose pills in a plastic Ziploc® bag – the bags are too easy to chew into. Make sure visiting house guests do the same, keeping their medications high up or out of reach.

If you place your medication in a weekly pill container, make sure to store the container in a cabinet out of reach of your pets. Unfortunately, if they get a hold of it, some pets might consider the pill container a plastic chew toy.

Never store your medications near your pet’s medications – veterinarians frequently receive calls from concerned pet owners who inadvertently give their own medication to their pet.

Hang your purse up. Inquisitive pets will explore the contents of your bag and simply placing your purse up and out of reach can help to avoid exposure to any potentially dangerous medication.

And finally, never administer a medication to a pet without first consulting your veterinarian.

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