Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Why can’t I give my pets my medications?

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

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Ears 101

One of the most common problems we see as veterinarians are dogs and cats with ear infections.   Signs of an ear infection are scratching at the ears, shaking the head, or discomfort when the ears are touched, but some pets have few if any signs.  Fortunately, most ear infections are very treatable but the underlying causes, methods or treatments, and medications we use are very different from what we are used to in people.  Add to that, the fact that many animals don’t like having their ears touched and the situation can get frustrating to say the least.  So here are some basics about ears that may prove useful!

Basic Anatomy:  Dog and cat ears are very different from our ears.  Their ear canals are very long and have a “bend” in them creating a horizontal and vertical ear canal.  Most ear infections in pets are external ear infections, or otitis externa– meaning only involving this long external portion of the ear.   These types of ear infections are commonly caused by yeast and bacteria, and although the pet is itchy and uncomfortable, they are typically otherwise healthy.  However internal ear infections, or otitis interna, are possible as well.  Just like in people, otitis interna is associated with more signs of systemic illness.  This type of ear infection in dogs and cats typically involves bacteria in the middle and inner part of the ear.

Ear cleaning:  If your pet suffers from an ear infection, cleaning the ear is an important component of treatment.  This can be a little intimidating but ear cleaning is something most pet owners can do at home.  First, always use an ear cleaner that is intended for dogs and cats.  For dogs with very dirty or waxy ears, pour the ear cleaning solution into the ear canal.  Massage the base of the ear to break up wax and debris, allow them to shake their head, then use cotton or soft gauze squares to wipe out the ear.  You can use your finger to wipe deep into the external ear canal because of that long winding canal that they have.  As a general rule, there is no need to use q-tips.  For cats, puppies, or less dirty ears, you can wet the cotton or gauze with the ear cleaner and use that to wipe out the ears in a similar fashion.  Be thorough yet gentle!  How often to clean you pets’ ears can vary based on a number of factors so it is best to ask your veterinarian.  Typically you can clean up to twice weekly if there is a problem and then weekly to monthly for maintenance.  Clean anytime after bathing or swimming as water or other moisture in the ear can be a cause of an ear infection!

Applying ear medications:  If your pet has an ear infection (otitis externa), your veterinarian will likely prescribe a topical medication to treat it.  The goal is to get the medication as deep into the ear as possible!  It is OK to place the medication bottle into the canal to apply the medication.  The medications are designed so they will not hit the ear drums.  Apply the medication deep to the ears as often as directed and then massage the base of the ear to distribute the medication.  If you are cleaning and treating, always do the cleaning first!  For internal ear infections (otitis interna), your veterinarian may also prescribe oral medications or perform cultures of the ear.  It is very important to use medications as directed and to finish all medications prescribed.  For either type of ear infection, it is also imperative to recheck as recommended to ensure it has resolved!

article written by:
Jessica Smith, DVM
Companion Animal Hospital Mount Prospect