Human drugs - a danger to pets

8 human drugs causing toxicosis in pets - be aware and keep them out of reach

Posted: 11 December 2017

Human drugs - a danger to pets


Inadvertent poisoning of pets has happened for years. Nowadays the increasingly different types of medications being prescribed makes the diagnosis of a drug more difficult, so it’s wise to be aware of what is available and causes problems.

1. NSAID’s – the number one poisoning come from the widely available anti-inflammatory group of drugs. Both ibuprofen and naproxen cause significance problems for dogs, cats and rabbits. They tend to be safe for humans, but can be responsible for renal failure and gastric ulceration from very small doses in our pets. CNS depression, hypotension, ataxia, cardiac effects, and seizures can be seen. Ibuprofen has a narrow margin of safety in both cats and dogs. GIT signs can appear wth doses as low as 100mg/kg, whilst 600mg/kg can prove fatal. Its easy to see how a packet of ibuprofen left on the table can be disastrous if chewed and swallowed by an unattended puppy. Naproxen has been reported to be potentially fatal at doses as low as 35mg/kg.

2. Paracetamol – also known as acetaminophen, also causes serious complications following ingestion. Typically doses above 200mg/kg are dangerous, causing liver damage and methaemaglobinaemia. Clinical signs can also include depression, weakness, hyperventilation, icterus, vomiting, cyanosis, dyspnoea and death.

3. Antidepressants – commonly prescribed in our modern world. With the rising number of people and animals receiving antidepressant medications, it’s not surprising that the number of accidental ingestions of these drugs has also increased. tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) & selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)  are the most frequently prescribed drugs to look out for. Amitriptyline, clomipramine are examples of TCA’s. Clinical signs of TCA overdose can appear as early as 30 minutes after ingestion, and death can occur within one or two hours if a patient is not treated. If you know or suspect an animal has eaten antidepressants, act fast.

4. Birth control drugs – commonly containing oestrogen, oestradiol and progesterone For some reason dogs seem to find chewing these packets of tablets fun. Generally the amount that can be swallowed is minimal and wont cause too much concern. Some cases can develop bone marrow suppression.

5. Statins – one of the most widely prescribed drugs these days for people with high levels of cholesterol. For dogs and cats, these generally wont cause a major risk. Occasionally the animal may develop mild gastrointestinal signs, including vomiting and diarrhoea.

6. ACE Inhibitors – used in humans for hypertension as they are in small pets. Small doses are generally not a problem, with perhaps transient weakness or dizziness, but high dose ingestion needs to be monitored carefully. Look for the familiar renal risk indicators by checking blood and urine samples.

7. Benzodiazepines – used in humans to treat anxiety and sleep disorders. In dogs, they can often become agitated instead of sedated. In cats they have been associated with fatal liver failure.

8. Beta-blockers – like ACE inhibitors, they are used to treat hypertension in humans. Even small doses of these can cause very serious hypotension and respiratory distress in cats and dogs.

If you suspect a dog, cat, rabbit or ferret has eaten some human medicines, get as much information as possible and contact the Veterinary Poisons Information Service (VPIS).

They provide a 24 hours information service for veterinary professionals worldwide handling animal poisoning cases.