Many owners are surprised to find that there is a lot of overlap between the drugs their veterinarian prescribes for their pet and the drugs their doctors prescribe for them. For example, you may be surprised to find that many antibiotics, pain medications, and even insulins can be prescribed for humans and pets. However, it is very important to realize that there can be huge differences in drug doses in a human versus an animal, and some human drugs can be quite toxic to pets! Even a drug that is usually benign to us, such as Tylenol, can be deadly in a cat! This is because our pets metabolize some drugs very differently than we do. Below is a list of some classes of drugs that are potentially dangerous for pets.
1) Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as Advil, Aleve, and aspirin
These drugs are by far the most common drugs I see owners giving to their pets. However, our pets metabolize these drugs very differently than we do. So while Advil may help with your aches and pains, it can cause issues like intestinal ulceration and bleeding and even kidney failure in your pet. The other issue is that if you give these drugs to your pet before a vet visit, your vet may have a hard time prescribing an appropriate anti-inflammatory drug until the human NSAID is out of their system. There are NSAIDs made specifically for dogs and cats, so speak with your veterinarian if you think your pet may benefit from these.
2) Tylenol (acetaminophen)
This is another popular human pain medication that can have deadly consequences in our pets. Acetaminophen can cause anemia (decrease in red blood cells) and prevent appropriate distribution of oxygen in the body, resulting in hypoxia (lack of oxygen). Liver failure can also occur in cats and dogs. Pets exposed to Tylenol will likely require hospitalization and extensive supportive care, and even then could still die with or without medical intervention.
3) Benzodiazepines (Xanax, Klonopin)
While there are certain situations that warrant benzodiazepines in cats and dogs, such as storm phobias, it is important to realize that some animals may have adverse reactions. Some patients may become excessively sedate while others may have an excitatory effect and actually become agitated. If your vet decides these drugs are necessary for your pet, they can guide you on appropriate doses to minimize the chance of seeing these side effects.
4) Antidepressents (Prozac, Cymbalta, etc)
There are numerous drugs available to treat anxiety in pets, and some of these drugs are even the same as those used in humans. For example, Prozac is often used to manage behavioral issues in dogs and cats. However, it is important to remember that animals’ weights and metabolisms are very different from humans, so allow your vet to decide if one of these medications is appropriate and to prescribe an appropriate dose and frequency of administration. Additionally, your vet may be able to help you with training tips, as these drugs often work best when paired with behavioral modification.
5) Antihistamines (Benadryl, Zyrtec, etc)
These are wonderful drugs to help with mild itching and allergies, however it is very important to consult with your vet to find an appropriate dose for your pet. If overdosed, these medications can cause profound sedation, excessive panting, pacing, and other undesirable effects.
6) Pseudoepherdrine (decongestant found in Sudafed)
While your vet may prescribe pseudoephedrine to help control urinary incontinence, an overdose of this drug can lead to tremors, pacing, rapid heartbeat, overheating, and even collapse. Again, consult your vet for appropriate dosages if need be.
Please remember to NEVER give your pet ANY medicine unless advised by a veterinarian. Drugs are great tools when used appropriately, but can be deadly when used incorrectly! Your veterinarian can safely guide you on what medications are ok to give your pets, so don’t hesitate to reach out to them if you need guidance!
article written by:
Erin Walsh, DVM
Companion Animal Hospital Mount Prospect