Nearly half of the calls received by the 24-hour service the Pet Poison Helpline™ involve over-the-counter or prescription human medications. According to the helpline, in most cases a pet accidentally chewed into a pill bottle or a well-intentioned owner thought that their own medication was safe to give to pets. The helpline urges pet owners to contact their veterinarian or the Pet Poison Helpline at (800) 213-6680 immediately you become aware that your pet might have ingested a human medication.
"It is important to note that while a medication may be safe for children, it may not be safe for animals. Pets metabolize medications very differently from people. Even seemingly benign over-the-counter or herbal medications may cause serious poisoning in pets," says Dr. Justine Lee at the Pet Poison Helpline.
The most common human medications to cause poisoning in pets are non-steroidal anti-inflammatories NSAIDs (such as Advil, Aleve and Motrin), which also include common names such as ibuprofen and naproxen. The helpline says that even one or two of these pills can cause serious harm to pets – ingestion can cause serious stomach and intestinal ulcers as well as kidney failure. The second most common drug to cause poisoning is Acetaminophen (for example Tylenol), which is especially dangerous to cats. Just one full-strength tablet can cause damage to a cat’s red blood cells. In dogs, acetaminophen can lead to liver failure and damage to red blood cells.
Antidepressants are the third most common human medication to cause poisoning in pets. Examples include Cymbalta, Prozac and Lexapro, and while these drugs are occasionally used in pets, overdoses can cause extreme responses such as incoordination, tremors and seizures. Among other common household drugs that are poisonous to pets are ADD/ADHD medications such as Concerta, Adderall, Ritalin; Sleeping pills such as Xanax, Klonopin and Ambien; Birth control pills like estrogen and estradiol; Beta-blockers like Tenormin and Toprol; Thyroid hormones; and Cholesterol lowering agents such as Lipitor, Zocor and Crestor.