Category Archives: Safety

Top 10 Human Medications Poisonous to Pets

Pet owners who are serious about pet-proofing their home should start with their own medicine cabinet. Nearly 50% of all calls received by Pet Poison Helpline involve human medications – both over-the-counter and prescription. Whether Fido accidentally chewed into a pill bottle or a well-intentioned pet owner accidently switched medication (giving their pet a human medication), pet poisonings due to human medications are common and can be very serious.

Below is a list of the top 10 human medications most frequently ingested by pets, along with some tips from the veterinarians at Pet Poison Helpline on how to prevent pet poisoning from human medications.

NSAIDs (e.g. Advil, Aleve and Motrin)

Topping our Top 10 list are common household medications called non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), which include common names such as ibuprofen (e.g., Advil and some types of Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve). While these medications are safe for people, even one or two pills can cause serious harm to a pet. Dogs, cats, birds and other small mammals (ferrets, gerbils and hamsters) may develop serious stomach and intestinal ulcers as well as kidney failure.

Acetaminophen (e.g. Tylenol)

When it comes to pain medications, acetaminophen (e.g. Tylenol) is certainly popular. Even though this drug is very safe, even for children, this is not true for pets—especially cats. One regular strength tablet of acetaminophen may cause damage to a cat’s red blood cells, limiting their ability to carry oxygen. In dogs, acetaminophen leads to liver failure and, in large doses, red blood cell damage.

Antidepressants (e.g. Effexor, Cymbalta, Prozac, Lexapro)

While 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, blood pressure and body temperature. Pets, especially cats, seem to enjoy the taste of Effexor and often eat the entire pill. Unfortunately, just one pill can cause serious poisoning.

ADD/ADHD medications (e.g. Concerta, Adderall, Ritalin)

Medications used to treat Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder contain potent stimulants such as amphetamines and methylphenidate. Even minimal ingestions of these medications by pets can cause life-threatening tremors, seizures, elevated body temperatures and heart problems.

Benzodiazepines and sleep aids (e.g. Xanax, Klonopin, Ambien, Lunesta)

These medications are designed to reduce anxiety and help people sleep better. However, in pets, they may have the opposite effect. About half of the dogs who ingest sleep aids become agitated instead of sedate. In addition, these drugs may cause severe lethargy, incoordination (including walking “drunk”), and slowed breathing in pets. In cats, some forms of benzodiazepines can cause liver failure when ingested.

Birth control (e.g. estrogen, estradiol, progesterone)

Birth control pills often come in packages that dogs find irresistible. Thankfully, small ingestions of these medications typically do not cause trouble. However, large ingestions of estrogen and estradiol can cause bone marrow suppression, particularly in birds. Additionally, female pets that are intact (not spayed), are at an increased risk of side effects from estrogen poisoning.

ACE Inhibitors (e.g. Zestril, Altace)

Angiotensin-converting enzyme (or “ACE”) inhibitors are commonly used to treat high blood pressure in people and, occasionally, pets. Though overdoses can cause low blood pressure, dizziness and weakness, this category of medication is typically quite safe. Pets ingesting small amounts of this medication can potentially be monitored at home, unless they have kidney failure or heart disease. All heart medications should be kept out of reach of pets.

Beta-blockers (e.g. Tenormin, Toprol, Coreg)

Beta-blockers are also used to treat high blood pressure but, unlike the ACE inhibitor, small ingestions of these drugs may cause serious poisoning in pets. Overdoses can cause life-threatening decreases in blood pressure and a very slow heart rate.

Thyroid hormones (e.g. Armour desiccated thyroid, Synthroid)

Pets — especially dogs — get underactive thyroids too. Interestingly, the dose of thyroid hormone needed to treat dogs is much higher than a person’s dose. Therefore, if dogs accidentally get into thyroid hormones at home, it rarely results in problems. However, large acute overdoses in cats and dogs can cause muscle tremors, nervousness, panting, a rapid heart rate and aggression.

Cholesterol lowering agents (e.g. Lipitor, Zocor, Crestor)

These popular medications, often called “statins,” are commonly used in the United States. While pets do not typically get high cholesterol, they may still get into the pill bottle. Thankfully, most “statin” ingestions only cause mild vomiting or diarrhea. Serious side effects from these drugs come with long-term use, not one-time ingestions.

Debunking the Top Myths Surrounding Spaying and Neutering Pets

For a shocking number of pet owners, the true importance of spaying and neutering your pets isn’t often understood. As a result, 20% of dogs and 10% of cats in the U.S. today haven’t been spayed or neutered — and 98% of the country’s stray animal population is neither spayed nor neutered.

That’s because many people aren’t as educated on the benefits of spay and neuter procedures as they should be. Instead of learning about why you should spay and neuter your pets, it’s easier for many of us to go off of myths and inaccuracies we’ve heard from others — something that no responsible pet owner should do.

To help demonstrate the reasons why you should spay and neuter your pets, we’ve compiled this list of the top five most pervasive spay and neuter myths — and have provided the truth that lies behind these myths:

Myth: Having my pet spayed or neutered is too expensive.

Fact: Believe it or not, but it’s easier than ever to find an affordable spay and neuter clinic in your area. Many communities throughout the country offer reduced licensing fees and a multitude of other benefits to pet owners who have their companion animals spayed or neutered. And just remember — the cost of having your pet spayed or neutered will always be much, much less than the cost of caring for an entire litter of puppies or kittens.

Myth: Having my pet spayed or neutered will change his or her behavior.

Fact: This myth is actually true, to an extent. While spaying or neutering won’t do anything to change your pet’s actual personality, your pet will be less likely to roam away from home, decreases aggressive tendencies. A number of other undesirable behaviors will be eliminated after your pet is spayed or neutered.

Myth: Animals become less active and overweight as a result of spaying or neutering.

Fact: As any animal matures, it is necessary for owners to adjust dietary intake to compensate for more sedentary lifestyles. Animals become overweight only when they are fed too much and not exercised properly.

Myth: Behavior is adversely affected by sterilization.

Fact: The only changes in dog and cat behavior after spaying or neutering are positive changes. Male cats tend to reduce territorial spraying, depending on their age at neutering. Neutered dogs and cats fight less, resulting in fewer bite and scratch wounds and lessening the spread of contagious diseases. Male dogs and cats tend to stay home more after neutering because they no longer wander in search of a mate.

Myth: Spaying and neutering is painful to my dog or cat.

Fact: Surgical sterilization is performed under general anesthesia by a doctor of veterinary medicine. The procedure itself is not felt by the patient. There may be mild discomfort after the surgery, but most animals return to normal activity within 24 to 72 hours. The minimal discomfort experienced by dogs and cats that are spayed or neutered can be lessened with post-operative pain medications and is well worth the endless suffering that is prevented by eliminating homeless puppies and kittens.

10 Things To Do If Your Pet Is Lost

Nearly one in five lost pets goes missing after being scared by the sound of fireworks, thunderstorms or other loud noises, according to a survey by The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. And, while losing your pet can be a traumatic experience for both you and your pet, have hope as 93 percent of dogs and 75 percent of cats reported lost are returned safely to their homes, according to another survey.

If you do lose your pet, here are 10 top tips to help reunite you with your furry friend as quickly as possible:

  1. File a lost pet report with every shelter and animal control office within a 60-mile radius of your home and visit the nearest shelters daily, if possible.
  2. Get the word out to all veterinarians in the area. Sometimes people pick up a stray and drive it to a distant clinic.
  3. Walk or drive through your neighborhood several times each day. Enlist friends and family to help. Hand out a recent photograph of your pet and your contact information.
  4. Speak with your neighbors. The more people know you have lost a pet and that you are desperately trying to find your pet, the more people will call you if they see a loose animal.
  5. Place flyers in the neighborhood and public places. To avoid scams, when describing your pet, leave out one characteristic and ask the person who finds your pet to describe it.
  6. Post about your pet on all pet recovery web-sites and services. Sites such as Craigslist.org,  TheCenterForLostPets.com and FidoFinder.com broadcast your missing pet quickly.
  7. Consider a lost pet recovery service. There are numerous lost pet alert services that will contact homes, veterinarians, shelters and animal control organizations for a reasonable fee.
  8. Place food and water outside your home. Your pets may return to your home when they get hungry or thirsty. Consider placing food in a humane pet trap to capture them.
  9. Tell everyone you see about your pet and ask them to keep their eyes open. The more people you alert, the greater the chance someone will recollect seeing your pet in their area.
  10. Don’t give up. Be aggressive in your search, get lots of help and get the word out right away. You need those early hours to put up posters and start your search.