Paw Corner – Dangers of human medicines for our pets

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Never give human medications to your cats and dogs before consulting a vet. Many human medications are harmful to dogs and cats and those medications that can be used need to be given at very different dosages than you would give to a human. Dogs and cats are not just small people and while you may be tempted to try and provide some relief for your pet by using your own medicines or over-the counter painkillers, the reality is you may be killing your pet.

Paracetamol is particularly toxic to dogs and cats (trade names include Panadol and Panamax). Cats are the most susceptible – less than 1/8 of a tablet can be fatal. The signs of toxicity in cats can appear in 1-4 hours after ingestion. Paracetamol causes difficulty breathing, brown or blue gums, weakness and swelling of the face and paws. Some cats will vomit and have very yellow gums showing liver damage. In dogs the signs of paracetamol toxicity may not be as apparent as it can accumulate in your dog’s system and in time can lead to kidney and liver damage, stomach ulcers and anaemia. A mild case of paracetamol poisoning can give your dog an upset stomach, and they may appear tired. More serious cases can include signs of staggering, vomiting and restlessness. There can be blood in the stool and the urine will seem unusually dark coloured.

Another common over the counter pain killer that is toxic to cats and dogs is Ibuprofen (trade names include Advil and Nurofen). In humans, Ibuprofen works to block the chemicals in the body that cause pain, fever and inflammation. Giving just one tablet of Ibuprofen to pets can cause gastric ulceration. This will be seen as very dark, black tarry faeces or vomiting containing blood. Higher doses can cause severe kidney damage and often lead to renal failure.

It is also very important to be aware that using any human medications prior to visiting your vet can create difficulties in treatment for your pet. For example, if surgery is necessary we will be unable to provide appropriate pain relief if there are potentially toxic human drugs in your pet’s system. If your animal does appear in pain or does have an obvious injury and it is late at night or on the weekend please think twice about reaching for human medications. Some medications can be used but the dose is much smaller. If necessary call the after hours number at the vet clinic for advice on what and how much you can give. We would prefer that you woke us up to ask advice rather than self-medicate your pet.

It is always best, however, to find out the source of the pain and treat appropriately as more often than not antibiotics may be needed or anti-inflammatories that are designed, tested and approved for use in animals. Ingestion of human medicines is one of the major causes of poisonings in dogs and cats accounting for up to 25% of all poisonings. For added protection, you should keep all medicines in sealed containers. Never leave them lying around where pets can get at them. Like kids they will eat whatever they find.

Keep medicines away from your furry friends!


With Dr. Karin O’Connor from Port Vila Vet Clinic.