Top 10 Human Medications Most Frequently Ingested by Pets:
- NSAIDs (e.g. Advil, Aleve and Motrin)
Just one or two pills can cause serious harm to a pet. Dogs, cats, birds and other small mammals (ferrets, gerbils and hamsters) may develop serious stomach and intestinal ulcers as well as kidney failure.
- Acetaminophen (e.g. Tylenol)
One regular strength tablet of acetaminophen may cause damage to a cat’s red blood cells, limiting their ability to carry oxygen. In dogs, acetaminophen leads to liver failure and, in large doses, red blood cell damage.
- Antidepressants (e.g. Effexor, Cymbalta, Prozac, Lexapro)
While these antidepressant drugs are occasionally used in pets, overdoses can lead to serious neurological problems such as sedation, incoordination, tremors and seizures. Some antidepressants also have a stimulant effect leading to a dangerously elevated heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature.
- ADD/ADHD medications (e.g. Concerta, Adderall, Ritalin)
Even minimal ingestions of ADD and ADHD medications by pets can cause life-threatening tremors, seizures, elevated body temperatures and heart problems.
- Benzodiazepines and sleep aids (e.g. Xanax, Klonopin, Ambien, Lunesta)
About half of the dogs who ingest sleep aids become agitated instead of sedate. In addition, these drugs may cause severe lethargy, incoordination (including walking “drunk”), and slowed breathing in pets. In cats, some forms of benzodiazepines can cause liver failure when ingested.
- Birth control (e.g. estrogen, estradiol, progesterone)
Birth control pills often come in packages that dogs find irresistible. Thankfully, small ingestions of these medications typically do not cause trouble. However, large ingestions of estrogen and estradiol can cause bone marrow suppression, particularly in birds. Additionally, female pets that are intact (not spayed), are at an increased risk of side effects from estrogen poisoning.
- ACE Inhibitors (e.g. Zestril, Altace)
Overdoses can cause low blood pressure, dizziness and weakness, but this category of medication is typically quite safe. Pets ingesting small amounts of this medication can potentially be monitored at home, unless they have kidney failure or heart disease. All heart medications should be kept out of reach of pets.
- Beta-blockers (e.g. Tenormin, Toprol, Coreg)
Small ingestions of beta-blockers may cause serious poisoning in pets. Overdoses can cause life-threatening decreases in blood pressure and a very slow heart rate.
- Thyroid hormones (e.g. Armour desiccated thyroid, Synthroid)
Interestingly, the dose of thyroid hormone needed to treat dogs is much higher than a person’s dose. Therefore, if dogs accidentally get into thyroid hormones at home, it rarely results in problems. However, large acute overdoses in cats and dogs can cause muscle tremors, nervousness, panting, a rapid heart rate and aggression.
- Cholesterol lowering agents (e.g. Lipitor, Zocor, Crestor)
Ingesting “statins” only causes mild vomiting or diarrhea. Serious side effects from these drugs come with long-term use, not one-time ingestions.