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Is it safe to give your pets human medication?

Michele Borboa, MS is a freelance writer and editor specializing in health, fitness, food, lifestyle, and pets. Michele is a health and wellness expert, personal chef, cookbook author, and pet-lover based in Bozeman, Montana. She is also...

Vets are reporting pet illness and death due to human prescription drugs

It's crazy to think that any pet owner would intentionally give his or her dog or cat contraceptive pills, but it happens all too often. Worse, a new study reports that The Pill is just one of many human prescription drugs that pets are given or accidentally ingest.

Human medications aren't for pets

According to the pet experts at Direct Line Pet Insurance, 78 percent of vets surveyed in July 2014 have treated pets that have ingested human medication in the last year. We know accidents happen and our dogs and cats can be tenacious at getting into things, but nearly one-third of these cases involved owners who deliberately gave their pets human medications hoping they would better the pet's health. Unfortunately, prescription and over-the-counter drugs for humans can cause illness and even death for our pets.

For example, if you give a painkiller, such as acetaminophen, to your cat to treat arthritis, you are putting it at a high risk of dying since cats cannot break down the drug.

Drugs and pets don't mix — even in small doses

The most common types of medication that vets report pets ingesting include painkillers, prescription drugs (for heart conditions or diabetes, for example), antidepressants, sleeping pills and, yes, even birth control pills. Direct Line Pet Insurance is calling on owners to be more vigilant in keeping drugs out of reach of their pets and to never deliberately give their pets human medications.

“It is concerning to see so many cases of pets ingesting human medication," says Madeline Pike, veterinary nurse at Direct Line Pet Insurance. "Human medication is extremely dangerous to pets and often results in them being treated with medication to induce vomiting or a fluid treatment, which may cause them great distress. Any procedure carries a risk for animals, so unnecessary treatments should be avoided at all costs. If you suspect that your pet has ingested human medication, it is essential that they see a vet immediately. If you are concerned about an illness your pet has, we strongly recommend seeking veterinary advice — do not assume that a smaller dose of human medication will suffice.”

Don't let your dog OD

Though the study reports that dogs, cats, rabbits and guinea pigs have been brought in for vet treatment after human drug exposure, 76 percent of the cases involved dogs. Fortunately, if you get your dog to the vet within two hours of drug ingestion, the vet can induce vomiting and give your pup charcoal to soak up the toxins. If you wait to see how your dog will react to the drugs, it could be too late.

One vet reported that a Husky accidentally consumed a 40-count packet of ibuprofen and was not brought to the clinic until 16 hours later, which resulted in the dog dying from liver and kidney damage. No dog or pet owner should have to go through this.

What can you do?

You love your pets and want to do everything you can for them when they are sick or injured. However, giving them human medications isn't the answer. Prescription medications meant for people can cause illness and even death for your furry friends. If your pawed pal is in need of medical attention, instead of taking its health into your own hands, take it to a vet who can give your pet the care and treatment it deserves.

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