FYI: Poisonous medications for your pets

Once upon a time, my cat, Yoshi, was put on antidepressants. He was given fluoxetine (Prozac®) to calm his rampant nerves from a neighborhood cat that liked to lurk at our front door. I can still remember holding him in my arms as we pried open his mouth and squirted the liquid medication into his mouth. He would always glare at me, then go sulk in a corner to, presumably, make me feel bad for what I had done.

It still makes me laugh: my cat was on antidepressants. It seemed so outlandish. What could be bothering my barely-even-10-pound rescue cat enough to merit medication that was reserved for humans?

But giving cats (and dogs) medications isn’t entirely uncommon. Pets can be prescribed general medications to care for infections or ailments, or other medications to deal with behavioral issues (I’m looking at you, Yoshi).  In other cases, human medications can be prescribed. There should be a big caution sign involved with this post. Be sure to call the veterinarian before giving any medication to your animal; they can tell you whether or not it is safe, and also give you proper dosing instructions.

There are several human medications that are considered quite toxic for your animals and should not be given to them, or left in a place where they might have access to them (i.e., on a counter where they can be knocked off, then eaten).

Ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®) is a common medication interchanged between humans and pets, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). The pain-relieving pills have a sweet coating on them that pets are attracted to, but can cause stomach ulcers and kidney failure in your pets they do not have the proper dosage.

What do you mean when you say “I can’t eat that”?

Another pain reliever, tramadol (Ultram®), should only be taken with appropriate dosage from your vet. Inappropriate usage can cause sedation, disorientation, agitation, vomiting and even seizures.

Other pain-relievers, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol®) and naproxen (Aleve®, Naprosyn®), are also dangerous to your pets. Cats are extremely sensitive to acetaminophen, which can damage to the liver and red blood cells. Both animals are sensitive to naproxen; extra precautions should be taken around this medication, as even small amounts can result in stomach ulcers and kidney failure.

But it isn’t just pain killers that you should keep away from your pets.

Antidepressants, such as duloxetine (Cymbalta®) and venlafaxine  (Effexor®), can cause agitation, vocalization, tremors and seizures. Cats, in particular, seem to gravitate towards the venlafaxine tablets.

Medications meant for humans do not always have the same results when ingested by pets. For instance, if your cat were to eat zolpidem (Ambien®), they may become agitated and have increased heart rate instead of becoming sleepy. A more extensive list of medications can be found here — but even that list is not exhaustive.

When in doubt if you are considering giving your pet medication or your pet has accidentally ingested some, phone your veterinarian as soon as possible.

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