Spring Cleaning Hazards Lurking in the Medicine Cabinet

Though the mercury may not yet be rising in your part of the country, springtime is here, and for many of us a thorough spring-cleaning is in order.

Most pet parents know to keep their pets out of the area of cleaning until the room is well-ventilated and all cleaning products have dried, and yet there is a more common danger that is waiting for your pets. That danger is in the form of superfluous medicine bottles that shake, rattle, and roll with sugar-coated or expired “treats,” better known to you and I as pills.

As you clean out your cabinets and drawers, please remember that many pets think these medications are yummy little morsels to ingest in mass quantities. What starts off as an innocent enough game of “paw around the medicine bottle” all too often soon becomes devour the prize inside.

One of the most common emergencies that we see as veterinarians is a pet that has gotten into medications. While many human drugs can be safely administered to dogs or cats, overdoses can be dangerous or deadly.

So which drugs are the common ones that pets get into? Here are our top five.

1. Aspirin

Did you know that giving a puppy even a single baby aspirin could be dangerous? Toxic quantities of aspirin can adversely affect all of your pet's organs, including impaired blood clotting, vomiting and diarrhea, acute kidney failure, and even seizures.

2. Ibuprofen (or many similar drugs such as Aleve)

For dogs and especially cats, ibuprofen can easily exceed toxic levels. The most common cause of ibuprofen toxicity is a well-meaning owner who tries to alleviate pain in their dog by giving a dose he thinks is adequate or reasonable without knowing the toxic dose. The initial toxic effect is bleeding stomach ulcers. In addition to ulcers, increasing or continued doses of ibuprofen eventually lead to kidney failure and, if left untreated, can be fatal.

In addition, ibuprofen is a drug that tends to not mix well with others. When the pet is on steroids, it can accelerate the development of stomach ulcers. If a pet regularly takes a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, such as Rimadyl, even low levels of ibuprofen can cause toxicities or harmful effects.

3. Amphetamines

Amphetamines are nervous system stimulants, and when ingested your pet may show signs of restlessness, hyperactivity, agitation, seizures, or even death within a brief 1-2 hours. You may not even realize what has happened during this short time.

4. Tylenol and/or Tylenol-containing drugs

Acetaminophen is a commonly used medication for fever and pain in pregnant women and even young children. While this makes it sound like a fairly benign drug, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Unfortunately, many well-intentioned owners mistakenly assume it's safe for pets as well. While acetaminophen is toxic to both dogs and cats, cats are much more sensitive to it. Just one 250 mg tablet can kill a cat. Stay far away from this one!

5. Another pet’s medication

The pet owner knows it’s safe for one dog (or cat) but the other pet (invariably it is always the smaller one) decides to break into the medicine bottle for his or her turn. Pets, dogs especially, vary greatly in weight and there is no "one size fits all" dose. If this does happen, make sure to talk to a vet immediately. Taking action sooner rather than later is always key. Please never assume that because a medicine is safe for one of your pets that it is safe for another.

I have yet to come across a pill bottle that is indestructible. Make sure to keep all bottles secure and away from pets even while you are cleaning. If you can’t monitor closely, consider crating during your cleaning time or having someone take your pet for a walk or activity elsewhere. Lastly, if you throw a bottle away, take the garbage out immediately.

If your pet does eat a pill that he or she is not the intended recipient of, ask a veterinarian immediately. Remember you can do this as an Embrace policyholder here. Our veterinarian friends at VetLIVE are here ‘round the clock to help you should this happen.

Has your pet ever accidentally eaten a pill that wasn’t his or hers? If so, what was it?

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