What to do if Your Pet Digest Poisons or Prescription Pills

Courtesy of Douglas O'Brien / Flickr

Courtesy of Douglas O’Brien / Flickr

America is the most medicated nation on Earth. According to data from the Department of Health and Human Service (HHS), at least half of the country’s citizens are on prescription pills. But this article isn’t about the drugs we take and why we take them; it’s about the effects these pills are having on our pets.

Around forty percent of the poison control calls the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) receives involve pets that ingested pills for people. That’s more than 25,000 cases on an annual basis! Since they obviously can’t open pill bottles themselves, most cases of pet exposure are the result of human error.

What goes wrong?

Many animals will get into anything we leave out. Most will lap up dropped pills, especially when they’re sugar-coated, as well as tablets left on low-lying tables. Some dogs can even chew through plastic pill bottles in a matter of minutes. On occasion, pet owners make the mistake of giving their dog or cat the wrong medication, or too much of the right one. Either can result in poisoning or overdose, both of which may be fatal.

How to respond when your pet takes your pills.

Don’t panic! Before you call anyone or go anywhere, make sure you know exactly what your animal ingested. Take a few seconds to collect the pills or materials involved. That way, the veterinarian or toxicologist that treats your furry friend will know exactly what (s)he’s dealing with.

If your animal consumes a substance you suspect might be toxic, do not hesitate to seek immediate emergency assistance. Many pet owners wait until they observe adverse effects, which is always a mistake. Why? Contrary to popular belief, some poisons can take hours, even days to affect your pet’s health. Therefore, it is always best to seek treatment as soon as possible after an incident.

Emergency assistance options 

When their pets swallow something they weren’t supposed to, most owners rush them to their local veterinarian. In many cases, that is an intelligent move. However, when an animal has ingested a particularly powerful poison, time is of the essence. It is for this reason that the ASPCA created the Animal Poison Control Center so you can personally take action on the spot. After you dial (888) 426-4435, a trained professional at the Control Center will ask you a series of questions in order to determine your best course of action. Therefore, you must be ready with the following information:

  • The species, breed, age, sex, and weight of the pet involved.
  • The animal’s symptoms.
  • The substance, material, or agent involved, as well as the amount that was ingested.
  • The time that has elapsed since first exposure.
  • Have the product, bottle, or packaging on hand for reference.

There are certain circumstances when calling the APCC may not be the best option. If your animal is having seizures, has lost consciousness, or is having trouble breathing, he needs immediate medical assistance. Make sure you call ahead and bring your pet to a local veterinary clinic or emergency veterinary clinic as soon as possible.

Prevention is Key

As careful as you may be, there’s a good chance your pet will ingest something that isn’t good for him in his lifetime. When this occurs, it is important to be prepared. In addition to having the APCC phone number on speed dial, veterinarians also recommend that you purchase an emergency first-aid kit for your animal.  This kit should contain the following items:

  • A small bottle of hydrogen peroxide (to use as an emetic)
  • A medicine syringe, bulb syringe, or a turkey baster (to administer the hydrogen peroxide and induce vomiting)
  • Eye solution (to flush poison from your pet’s eyes)
  • Dishwashing liquid (for bathing your pet’s coat after exposure to a poisonous substance or gas)
  • Forceps (to remove bee or wasp stingers)
  • A muzzle (to protect against biting caused by anxiety or fear)
  • A pull-tab can of your pet’s favorite wet food
  • A pet carrier (for storage of the actual kit or your animal, if needed)

Last but not least, we wanted to take a moment to talk about common medications that may be dangerous to pets.

Here are the top five most dangerous medications for pets:

  1.  Ibuprofen: Found in most households, handfuls of them can cause stomach ulcers and kidney failure.
  2.  Tramadol: A popular pain reliever even for pets, Tramadol has a laundry list of side effects, including sedation, agitation, disorientation, vomiting, tremors, and potentially deadly seizures. If your pet is on tramadol, follow your veterinarian’s instructions closely.
  3.  Xanax: The most prescribed anti-anxiety pill on the planet, Xanax can cause weakness and collapse when ingested by our pets.
  4.  Ambient: A drug that helps tens of millions of us get a restful night’s sleep, Ambient makes most pets anxious and agitated.
  5.  Acetaminophen: The popular painkiller can cause liver damage in furry friends.

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