Self Medicating Pets At Home: A Big “No-No!”

As pet owners, we hate seeing our pets in any distress and want to come to their aid right away. Often we have clients ask us if they can give their pet some over-the-counter human medications (such as Tylenol, Ibuprofen, Pepto Bismol, Pepcid etc.) in the event that they cannot come to the veterinarian at that very moment; you know, something to “hold them over” as they say.

First and foremost we’d like to state that we do not suggest you give your pet any medication unless under the direct treatment of a veterinarian. Many times you may believe the ailment in your pet is one thing, but the doctor finds it to be another, and the medication you were self medicating with prior to diagnosis ended up being more harmful than helpful.

Here’s what you need to know about human OTC (over the counter) medications and pets:

Acetaminophen (Tylenol®) Acetaminophen is a big-fat NO when it comes to pets. Acetaminophen can destroy red blood cells in pets and cause them to be anemic, as well as severe irreversible liver damage, and may lead to death if untreated. Acetaminophen is also more toxic to dogs and cats than people due to extensive recirculation of the drug within the blood.

Ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®) Ibuprofen has been used in dogs as an analgesic or to reduce a fever, only when directly under the care of a veterinarian. Dogs often can be allergic to ibuprofen, so it’s important that you don’t give this drug at home because you risk your dog developing an allergic reaction which may constrict his or her airway and eventually lead to a fatality. In addition, ibuprofen can be more toxic to dogs and cats than people due to extensive recirculation of the drug within the blood. It can also be linked with kidney failure and gastric ulcers. When it comes to dogs, ibuprofen is not used to treat pain or arthritis. When it comes to cats, there’s a big “no-no”; cats are never ever to receive ibuprofen under any conditions.

Bismuth Subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol®, Kaopectate®) Bismuth Subsalicylate is used to treat mild diarrhea and stomach inflammation in dogs under the care of a veterinarian. It often leaves the stool a very dark color which should not be alarming. There are no serious complications caused by giving Pepto-Bismol to dogs, although there is not complete agreement that it is helpful either. It is important to know that Pepto-Bismol contains aspirin so it should not be used in dogs that are sensitive to aspirin, those with a history of GI ulcers or bleeding disorders; to do so could cause a fatal bleeding episode. When it comes to cats, it’s best to steer clear because they are more susceptible to suffering from a fatal toxicity.

Famotidine (Pepcid®) Famotidine is used in the treatment and prevention of stomach (gastric) and intestinal ulcers. Another use is management of acid reflux disease )a condition similar to “heartburn” in people) and caused by movement of stomach acid into the lower part of the esophagus. Dogs and cats with mast cell tumors may be treated with famotidine or a related drug because these tumors can produce large amounts of histamine. While generally safe and effective when prescribed by a veterinarian, famotidine can cause side effects in some animals, such as an allergic reaction. Medication should never be dispensed without the direct care of a treating veterinarian. This medication should not be used on patients suffering from kidney or liver disease.

Tums® In veterinary medicine, Tums can be used as a calcium supplement for dogs. A blood panel should be done on your pet before giving him or her Tums as it may not be good for them. An overdose on Tums can cause gastrointestinal upset, diarrhea and constipation.

Pseudoephedrine (Sudafed®) Pseudoephedrine causes increased heart rate and blood pressure, and should never be given to dogs.

Diphenhydramine (Benadryl®) Diphenhydramine is often used to treat allergic reactions in humans and pets. Diphenhydramine is a great emergency drug for allergic reactions related to insect bites and stings. Relatively safe, diphenhydramine is administered at the first sign of an allergic reaction in pets, children and adults, when bit by an insect or stung. Although it is relatively safe, diphenhydramine is not for every pet. Patients with glaucoma, prostatic disease, cardiovascular disease, and hyperthyroid, among other conditions, should generally avoid diphenhydramine.

Loperamide (Imodium®) Often used to treat diarrhea but can cause vomiting or abdominal cramping at lower doses, which can lead to dehydration. High doses can cause neurological signs like depression and ataxia in pets. Some dogs have a genetic sensitivity to the drug (same gene as Ivermectin sensitivity), and will show neurological signs even at low doses. It’s best you don’t give this one at home and contact your veterinarian when your pet has an upset stomach instead.

Give us a call at (925) 937-5000 immediately if you suspect that your pet has ate any medication, since some poisonings require antidotes or supportive treatment.

Always discuss with your veterinarian before “self-medicating” your pet for any condition.