This week is Pet Poison Prevention Week, which aims to raise awareness of household dangers to pets. While most people have heard of antifreeze, chocolate, ice melt, household cleaners, lawn & garden materials and other common hazards, many pet owners are unaware that some of the most hazardous items in their home may be sitting on their nightstands. For the fourth year in a row, human medications have topped the ASPCA’s list of top 10 toxins for pets.
So what medicines are most toxic to your pets? Here are the top human prescription toxins we see in pets that come into the Charleston Veterinary Referral Center Emergency Department:
• Skeletal muscle relaxants: Often prescribed for back pain, skeletal muscle relaxant ingestion by animals can result in such severe weakness that there is a complete inability to breathe. Ingesting this can be deadly.
• Topical chemotherapy: For treatment of certain skin cancers, topical chemotherapy cream is used. Ingestion of even a small amount can result in rapid death within hours. Severe nausea, vomiting, seizures and multiple organ failure result.
• Psoriasis cream: Certain creams used to treat psoriasis result in severe vitamin D toxicity when ingested by animals. Small amounts ingested over time can have a similar effect. Kidney failure can result which can be not recoverable, so any ingestion should be treated as an emergency.
• Blood pressure medications: Ingestion can have a wide variety of serious side effects from weakness and severely decreased blood pressure to abnormal heart rhythms, fainting and severe electrolyte changes.
• Sleep aids: Medications used to treat insomnia work by altering chemical transmission in the brain. In people this results in sleep but in animals toxicity can result in central nervous system stimulation. Symptoms to watch for include depression, lack of coordination and weakness, hyperexcitability, vomiting and diarrhea can be seen.
• SSRIs: Medications commonly used to treat depression can cause severe sedation, incoordination and seizures. More severe side effects include abdominal pain, dilated pupils and severe abnormal heart rhythms. Early recognition of ingestion is imperative to a positive outcome as the drug is rapidly absorbed into the system.
• Albuterol: Inhaled albuterol is actually a therapy that some animals require for treatment of lung disease. However, dogs will often bite through an albuterol canister and ingest far more medication that what is intended for use therapeutically. Side effects are immediate abnormal heart rhythms and electrolyte issues causing a need for blood and heart monitoring in the ER.
• Stimulants including ADHD medications and over the counter nasal decongestant: Can cause hyperexcitability and rapid, sometimes irregular heart rate with tremors and seizures. Some of these medicines are in a time release form which can cause problems up to 72 hours.
• Non steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (Ibuprofen, Naproxen, etc): These are extremely common in people’s home and with low dose ingestions, stomach ulceration can result in severe blood loss or rupture of the stomach and/or kidney failure. We treat by emptying the stomach and using a binding agent to stop the rest from being absorbed. Expect a longer stay for your pet while we monitor organ function and look for signs of permanent damage
• Tylenol: If a cat eats this, death is possible at a very small dose. The toxicity results from destruction of the red blood cell’s ability to carry oxygen to the body- a function that is vital to life. Cats may develop facial swelling and an itchy muzzle- these are early signs of poisoning. Get your cat to the ER immediately for possible transfusions, oxygen therapy and medication to reverse the toxic effects. Most cats with treatment delayed by more than 17 hours from ingestion unfortunately die. If there is ANY suspicion that a cat has had exposure to Tylenol, they should be examined immediately.
Remember, any ingestion of a human medication should be treated as an emergency. Always bring the bottle of medication and a list of all other medications that the pet could have also gotten into as many times they eat one thing and have actually nibbled on more.
About Charleston Veterinary Referral Center
Charleston Veterinary Referral Center (CVRC) is a specialty referral, emergency & critical care veterinary hospital which opened in March, 2011. The Center offers a cohesive team of veterinary professionals and staff that are dedicated to practicing the highest caliber of medicine and surgery available. CVRC believes that great care and service are intertwined. With a commitment to respect the integrity of the referral relationship with primary care veterinarians, doctors and staff at CVRC work tirelessly toward the goal of great communication. Our facility is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and can be reached at (843) 614-VETS (8387). For more information, please visit us online at http://www.CharlestonVRC.com or find us on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/CharlestonVRC.