Most people consider their pets as a much-cherished member of the family. We may share a slice of pizza with our pet dog or a can of tuna with our cat, but that does not mean it is safe for them to share our medicines as well (be it intentional or accidental).
This is because the way our pets metabolize (breakdown) these medications may not be the same as us humans: sometimes the drug is not metabolized or produces a toxic by-product after metabolism which is harmful to pets.
For example, paracetamol or acetaminophen ingestion can be toxic to cats at doses as low as 10-40 mg/kg, thus ingestion of a regular 500 mg human tablet can be fatal. This is because they are unable to properly metabolize (break down) this drug component, leading to accumulation of a toxic by-product which causes methaemoglobinaemia where oxygen is unable to bind to red blood cells, and subsequent liver damage.
Over the counter pain killers such as ibuprofen and naproxen can cause stomach ulcers and kidney failure in pets. Although ibuprofen has been recommended for short term use in dogs at dose of 5 mg/ kg, accidental ingestion of more than 600mg/kg is potentially lethal. Xylitol, an artificial sweetener found in some antacids, oral suspensions, gums or chewable multivitamins can be cause hypoglycaemia in dogs and rabbits which can be fatal when untreated.
Although a number of human medications can be prescribed to animals for off-label uses; these are never at the same doses used in treatment of human ailments. Thus, it is important to not extrapolate dosing of humans to pets. Always get specific directions on medications for your pet from the veterinarian. It is also important to store human medications out of reach of pets to prevent accidental ingestion as some tablets can just seem so attractive to them.
- Pain Medicines for pets: Know the risks. 2013. FDA Consumer Health Information. https://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm373009.htm
- Safdar A. Khan. Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Merck Manual – Veterinary manual. https://www.merckvetmanual.com/toxicology/toxicities-from-human-drugs/analgesics-toxicity
- Xylitol and Your Dog: Danger, paws off. 2018. FDA Consumer Health Information.